The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey
A little bit bonkers in the guise of a life story, The Girl Who Just Appeared is one woman’s quest to find who she is, where she’s come from and how to belong. From the outset it’s refreshing to read a female voice from the pen of a male writer – it’s genuine, far from stereotypical and utterly believable. There’s a warming cast of cleverly realised, if a bit twee characters, who bring this tale together in a mish-mash of British cultural references.
Holly is told at the age of nine that she’s adopted. We rejoin the story in her 30s to discover her in the midst of a hunt for her biological background, her adoptive parents having passed on. She makes the break and moves to Liverpool to trace the only name and address she has connected to her past. There she finds a tin in her mother’s old flat, and within is the link to a tragic, bittersweet history that begins to seem alarmingly her own.
Holly’s boss Sylvie and her trembling Chihuahua Michael, wet weekend boyfriend Jude, and new Scouse friend brighten her task, with Harvey’s unmistakable voice bubbling to the surface in moments of real hilarity. This is a journey of discovery, and the inclusion of Darren’s (wonderfully written) diary – the contents of the tin – keeps the reader guessing at every scrap of evidence thrown out. Enter Rose and Alan, the landlords of Holly’s new flat, and suddenly you’re off on a trail that’s just hidden from view, piecing together this twisting tale with bewilderment.
Our main character is loveable and exasperating, lost and assured, but you wish the best for her: the uncertain world she inhabits is poignant and funny, touching on themes of abandonment, belonging and unconditional love. Harvey is a great writer, but with a story that just doesn’t quite match. Ending with a twist that blows most people’s reality out of the water, The Girl Who Just Appeared is a gentle, tongue-in-cheek take on a human tale that will make you weep tears of joy and grief at once.
The Girl Who Just Appeared is published by Pan Macmillan at the paperback price of £7.99, for further information visit here.