On the surface A Song of Isolation seems like a perfectly standard psychological thriller and you’d be right to initially assume as much. But after you’ve immersed yourself in the main plot and finished reading, the finer subtleties and underlying themes creep out from the furthest corners of your mind and rise to the surface, revealing the novel’s layers bit by bit.
A Song of Isolation deals with two main plot lines – the career of Amelie Hart, ex-actress and celebrity and the account of her boyfriend, Dave’s conviction as a paedophile. Both their lives are disrupted and altered in a monumental way by the thirst for celebrity and the promise of financial gain that comes with it.
In 2010 Amelie is stalked by an admirer causing her to constantly live in fear. Subsequently she gives up her career and celebrity status and attempts to live a normal live. Unfortunately life with Dave lacks the excitement she’s accustomed to and four years along the line she’s on the verge of ending their mundane relationship. When the police show up on their doorstep and Dave is arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with Damaris Brown, the next door neighbours’ eleven year-old daughter, events take a drastically different and unfortunate turn.
What follows is the harrowing account of the way the event changes Dave, Amelie, Damaris and their families. Despite Amelie’s loyalty towards Dave their relationship takes strain. Dave has to survive in harsh and dangerous prison conditions, an environment where paedophiles are seen as the lowest of low in the prison food chain. For Amelie it’s near impossible to get back to acting unless she distances herself from Dave. Instead she flees to France, her country of origin, to find her feet and a new life in Bordeaux. Unfortunately her past follows her there.
As the years pass we see Damaris grow up in a dysfunctional family with little security or love except from Uncle Cammy, her mother’s unsavoury brother. Claire Brown, now divorced from her husband Roger, has taken to the bottle while Damaris is trying to cope with her own psychological demons, the incidents with Dave buried far away. Aside from the three main characters Dave’s parents, Peter and Norma, play an important role in both Dave and Amelie’s lives. There’s plenty of tragedy to go around, especially surrounding Peter and Norma. Just when you think the characters have had their fair share, there’s another unfortunate twist. But this is the thread which runs through of A Song of Isolation and keeps it together – the fragility of relationships and the importance of trust. Two families are portrayed, each with their own issues, challenges and complications, but how they deal with them are worlds apart.
Both Amelie and Dave are in isolation, but while Amelie’s was a voluntary shift away from celebrity life, Dave had no choice in his imprisonment – it was decided by an eleven year-old girl’s testimony. In the end both inhabit their own prisons. The cover perfectly captures the melancholic feeling of isolation and despair with the deserted bicycle adding a ominous atmosphere.
Despite its haunting topic, A Song of Isolation is an effortlessly gripping read about the obsession of celebrity and it’s unfortunate, tragic side-effects.
A Song of Isolation is published by Orenda Books and this review forms part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. Thank you to Orenda and Anne Cater for the opportunity to read and review A Song of Isolation.
About Michael J. Malone:
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.