THIS IS WHY YOU EXIST, bookbloggopipes. This is your raison for être, to bring books like this to my face. Because the cover looks like Gossip Girl Goes to Amishtown and ‘Franny Billingsley’ sounds like a poor man’s Maeve Binchy. (Whom I’ve never read. And whom, let’s be honest, I’d probably enjoy, as I am rapidly becoming my mother.)
But come with me to page one, paragraph one, sentence etc. ‘I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged.’ Punch! KaPOW! I asked for more this, and Universe? You delivered. (Now I would please like some salt water taffys.)
And Chime carries on in this dramatic vein. Briony’s dead stepmother may or may not have killed herself, and her identical twin Rose (with her identical porcelain face) is Not All There and given to fits and that may or may not be Briony’s fault. For Briony, you know, is a witch. And witches are hunted in the Swampsea, alas, so Briony must keep her witchy face hidden behind her perfect one, even when she meets a handsome, leonine stranger and yes there is romancey bits but this is like that one dish where I LIKE the cilantro and see how the cilantro adds to and improves the dish instead of being like WHY YOU THROW CILANTRO IN EVERYTHING?!? Plus the cilantro doesn’t feel like it’s inexorably fated to be together despite having just met and none of the other ingredients sneak in through the window to watch the cilantro sleep.
So that. And there are Secrets and faerie beasties and OH SO MANY SAVORY LIES! Very rarely does portentous live up to itself without being a little wtf, but Billingsley’s unspooling is both sensible and sensational, both Of course and Holy shitsters.
And both the Smugglers mentioned that the prose took them some time to get into, but those two are loons because I wasn’t three pages in before I was like, What ho, self! You are going to enjoy this! And that is a marvellous lucky place to be in three pages from the beginning, rather than three pages from the end when you only realize your enjoyment in retrospect. You know I love a plotty plot but Briony could have been TOTALLY NON-DAMAGED AND ALSO NOT A WITCH AND LIVING IN, LIKE, DELAWARE OR SOMETHING and I would still be like, Yes? Go on…? More dry and wry and unimpeachably honest but sneakily unreliable narration, please. More ‘How has Rose lived for seventeen years and no one has ever killed her, not once?’ Briony, you simultaneously slay me and break my heart.
My library has no other Billingsleys. I may go throw myself off a bridge now. Why are so many shitty novels serialized, and THIS IS THE ONLY ONE OF ITSELF? I will never understand you, Universe. (But thanks again for the stomping first lines. And don’t forget about the taffys.)