Take five pounds of hulled whole wheat. Hold it in your arms. Feel that it weighs nothing compared to the load that lays heavy on your heart. Wash the wheat, let your tears join in. Strike a match, strike up faith, light the gas. Watch the wheat bubble and boil. See steam rising like hope.”
All her life Melons mum told her The Story. The Story was like a fairy tale gone wrong, but it was beautiful all the same. It was the story of how Melon came to be, how her mum became the person she was and of how the Fouraki family is cursed to die young. When her mum is run down and killed, Melon is alone with no family to speak of, she has to make sense of the world, and her family’s position in it.
What a powerful book! This coming of age tale is unlike one I have read before, with myth and an almost magical feel. I knew from the beginning of the book that there was something more going on than a simple tale of grief and this book has it all, and I loved it.
One of my favourite things about this book was the way it was told. The chapters didn’t flow through a linear time scale like they would in most books, instead the reader was told how many days since, or before, that chapter was in relation to the death of Melon’s mother. I loved this because you got a whole range of feelings and you were told the really important bits of Melons story at the time you really wanted them, instead of having to remember back to earlier in the book, it was all relative to what had just been mentioned in the previous chapter or what was coming up in the next.
There was technically three stories in this one book, there was Melons story about her life, just before, on the day of and after her mums death, then there was her mum’s story, told to her at various points in her life, mostly when she was feeling down about having a name like Melon, and finally there was the true story. I knew this was coming, all the way through the book there are little clues that don’t add up about things that Melon remembers and I loved that the reader got these insights because of the way the book was written. You know that Melon went to see her great aunt at 9 and her great aunt didn’t know her name, you pick up on some things that Melons mum says that Melon doesn’t pick up on cos its just her mum being her overdramatic self.
I was fortunate to see Julie Mayhew at YALC this past weekend and I got her to sign my book, at the time I was part way through and when she looked at where I was she kind of went ‘ooooh, you’re there! hhhmmm.’ I was about 2/3 of the way through at that point and as soon as I got on the train home and finished the book I realised why I got that reaction, about 3 pages after where I was, it got real. I loved that last 100 pages more than any of the rest of the book and I couldn’t stop reading. All my curiosities were answered and Melon became her true self – not the angry, world hating girl she was at the beginning of the book, but someone who will tackle things head on and be herself, I loved it.
Melon isn’t a nice character in places and Julie said on the panel at YALC that Melon has been called a b*tch and people think she’s selfish, I didn’t get that at all. To me Melon was a implicated girl that had a hard name to deal with, a pretty eccentric mum and a whole lot of anger and frustration. Theres something that you learn about half way through the book that completely justified, for me anyway, why she is the way she is and I felt her character shine through even more because when I read about that part of the story I knew that if I was in her situation, I would feel the exact same.
All in all Red Ink is a fantastic novel which really is worth a read. The contemporary aspects flow so well with the mythical and the anger seeps into the pages as you turn them, but if you are like me, you can’t help but feel for Melon and what she’s going through.
Red Ink was published in February 2013 by Hot Key Books, my copy was purchased.
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