Friendship between women is always complex, we are notorious for our battles and agendas, but when you add men and career to the mix along with polarizing personality differences, you have a recipe for a damn good story; you have Beverly.
Beverly Johnson the protagonist of the story is introverted, suffering from social anxiety acquired in childhood as the result of a stutter. Unable to overcome her fear and her subsequent speech impediment, Beverly becomes adept at arranging her life so that there is little social contact to expose her difficulty with language.
She shares a flat with an old university friend, the outgoing and lusty Ella, who becomes a perfect barrier between Beverly and social interaction. Working side by side from home as consultants in separate businesses, they support each other’s efforts and professional ambitions. Although Ella’s love life is a source of detached fascination for Beverly who is happily committed to Roland, her first love, there is an undercurrent of jealousy and resentment. This is deliberately ignored by both as an extension of the insular day to day existence designed to protect Beverly from taking risks. Eventually, Beverly’s well-constructed world disintegrates when Roland breaks off their relationship and begins dating Ella, forcing Beverly to confront the fear and low self-esteem that have been lying dormant since childhood.
I have to say up front that this book has a charm that captivated me from the first page. There is only one way for any writer of fiction to compel the reader to finish a story and that is through the full development of the characters. You can love them or you can hate them but you must feel something that isn’t bland. Readers are primarily great sponges absorbing emotion and to grab their attention you have to be generous with doling out the feelings and it has to be done consistently. The ability to carefully reveal the temperament of a protagonist, page by page, situation by situation is innate, it is as natural as breathing to those who are born to write stories and author Fiona Pearse has this ability in spades. To construct an authentic world the creator must believe it and live in it from first draft to publication; this is what determines a bad book from a good one. Beverly is a very good book.
The pacing of any novel is fully dependent upon the believability of the people who populate a novel and once again, Ms. Pearse never wavers or disappoints, interspersing the text with information about Beverly’s speech issues through the introduction of Mala, a speech therapist. The inclusion of informative material, whether medical or scientific can be tricky and tedious, bogging down the rising action and drying up the reader’s appetite for more. But once again, the author doesn’t miss a beat, not lingering unnecessarily on irrelevant details but utilizing facts to support and enrich the character’s traits and challenges. The result is depth and it is the difference between a one dimensional being and protagonist that lives in the imagination of the reader.
There were some structural stumbling blocks midway through the book that couldn’t be ignored. The use of flashback was employed, the back and forth from recent past to present was awkward and stilted. The two situations were not connected in any way aside from one having preceded the other. This particular device only works when there is a revelatory connection between the two time periods that move the plot along. While the writing is quite exceptional, this connection of two separate passages that could very easily have stood on their own merit served no purpose and was a distraction from the story. Both situations should have been written in a chronological order but I do respect the author’s attempt to try a new approach here and the exceptional character development moves the reader past this flaw.
There were also a few continuity issues that most authors face when juggling multiple characters and exploring their emotional terrain. Information about a character’s background that is new but is being dropped into the text as if the reader should already have this knowledge, as well as a gap during some passages when a character is in one place then suddenly in another with no transition or explanation. This is always an editing rather than a writing issue and easily repaired. The extensive references to the protagonist’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend and their prior experiences together, were perfectly woven into the main plot. This could have been a disaster in less capable hands but Ms. Pearse easily draws the reader in with her exploration of the dynamics between these two and more importantly, Beverly’s interior life.
This is an entertaining read from an indie author who has immense talent as a story teller who will only get better and better with each new novel.
Purchase ‘Beverly’ here