When Dodie’s parents go missing just as final year exams are about to start, she convinces herself they’re fine. But when the least likely boy in class holds the key — quite literally — to the huge secret her parents have been hiding all these years, it’s up to Dodie, her sister, the guy from school, and two guys she’s never met before, to take on the challenge of a lifetime. So now Dodie’s driving — unlicensed — to Sydney, and being chased by bad guys, the police, and one very handsome good guy.
I found an interview today with Gabrielle Williams called “What’s In A Name”. Both The Reluctant Hallelujah and Gabrielle’s first book Beatle Meets Destiny take the naming of the characters very seriously. In Beatle Meets Destiny it’s the wonderful, significant, terribly timed symmetry of John Lennon (aka Beatle) meeting his soulmate Destiny McCartney. These names are too good to be true. They’re clever, they’re serendipitous and most of all, they ring entirely true for the characters.
In The Reluctant Hallelujah the naming of the character isn’t so blatant, but is still just as wrapped up in her identity. Dodie – ‘as in doe-a-deer-a-female-deer and de-lighted to meet you’, tells us who she is in this opening sentence. All we know is her name, but somehow it seems that she’s someone we’re instantly familiar with. By giving her a name that is so fitting, Gabrielle Williams has also given her a voice.
Any aspiring writers (like myself) will have struggled at one point or another to find their voice. “Just be yourself” people will say “write however feels natural”. But that’s often easier said than done. My drawers are filled with half finished stories, and I’ve spent many hours on the computer writing a paragraph just so, then deleting it and writing it in a different tense, then again and trying a different perspective. It seems that the only way to really know what’s ‘right’ is to keep on getting it wrong.
I don’t know if Gabrielle Williams has drawers filled with half finished, rewritten stories and I don’t know how many secret hours she wastes trying to get the voices of her characters just so. All I know is the result, which is a spectacularly surprising coming of age story told by the aptly named Dodie as she finds herself drawn into the biggest secret of her life.
The Reluctant Hallelujah is only the second book by this author, but like the first, is outstanding in its originality and ease. There are no false starts in reading this book. No pushing through the first chapter as the characters slowly sink their teeth into you. No, from the moment Dodie Farnshaw introduces herself, this book will have you in it’s clutches until it’s good and ready to let you go.