Title: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
Author: Caroline Smailes
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Publication Date: April 11th 2013
Summary: Arthur Braxton has had enough. His mum has left, his dad is broken and he’s the laughing stock of his high school. But things are about to change. When Arthur runs away and shelters in an old abandoned bathhouse, he sees a naked woman.
I first came across this novel a few years ago with influence from Carrie Hope Fletcher. She proved herself to be a massive fan, spreading word of this story over her social media. It wasn’t until two or three years later that i took the plunge in to buying it (and quite some time after that) then reading it. I would say i regret reading it sooner, however i think my age now is absolutely perfect for this story.
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton took me quite a while to get stuck in to. It took me about seventy pages to get my head around the world and fully dive in to the characters enough to understand who they are, why they’re present in this book and everything else about it. This book is heavily based around the characters, they make up the whole story and to be honest, it would be nothing without the eclectic mix of people we meet in these 366 pages. Whereas you still don’t fully understand the characters until much later in the story, they play integral parts on figuring out how this world works.
What i wasn’t expecting when i opened this book was the amount of magical realism that is involved. I knew absolutely nothing of this story when i dived in, and i recommend reading it that way to everyone. They whole premise will surprise you and keep you guessing, it’s truly a work of literary genius. The story is told main through the language used in the writing. Smailes does an immensely fantastic job of portraying personalities through the language used and the way the characters speak. It’s fascinating to me as a creative writer how she does this so successfully.
This story is set in ‘The Oracle’, a healers bath of some sort in which people go to find peace. You may know that the setting is based upon Victoria Baths in Manchester. Being from Manchester and knowing Victoria Baths quite well helped me to place this story and imagine it so much more clearly. I could see the characters roaming the deserted halls and see the deep pools in which they floated. It’s a truly magical book if you can really, vividly imagine where the characters are. If you’ve never heard of Victoria Baths before, i’d research it a little bit and have a look at some photos before you read the book, it will help you to visualise this a lot more.
At the beginning i struggled with visulising the characters and where they were because it’s told in such a monologue way. Once you get the hang of the writing style, you’re truly immersed in the story. A personal thing that i absolutely loved about this book was the script type chapters written from Delphine’s point of view. I love script in novels and this made it that little bit more special for me.
When i opened this book i wasn’t expecting such a dramatic telling of a first love and what you’d do for that person. The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a coming of age story with a few twists that keeps that genre alive. There’s so much more i want to say about this novel, i could talk about it for a life time. I absolutely adored this book and i cannot wait to read more of Caroline Smailes work.