Note to Self Review

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June 1, 2013 by roadmancebooks

June 1 is a great day for new releases, not only because my book Trouble Brewing is FINALLY out, but also because my pal Alison Nancye’s first novel is out too. I was given an advance review copy a while ago. I’m always a little nervous about reading books written by friends. What if the book is shit? I’m fortunate to have some talented friends, and Alison is one of them. Her book, Note to Self reminds me of the Red Smith (or was it Hemingway?) quote: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Reading Alison’s book I couldn’t help but think, she opened a vein. She put her heart and soul into this … and I’m hoping it goes really well for her. She deserves it. Here’s my review.

Note to Self is part novel, part self-development manual. It’s the story of Beth Mathews who has a major meltdown on a Sydney street, made all the more confusing when she hears a voice speaking to her. Unlike most people who hear that internal voice, and ignore it, Beth actually listens, and starts changing her life. She quits her job, buys a ticket to Peru, packs up her apartment, and takes off on an adventure.

Unlike many writers (including myself) today who go for “high concept” ideas, and throw all sorts of roadblocks at their characters, Alison Nancye takes her time with her debut novel. Her main character might buy a ticket to Peru quite early in the story, but it’s not until halfway through the book that Beth actually arrives in Lima. In the meantime the reader is taken step-by-step through Beth’s personal struggles, her sense of self (or lack of), and her plans to leave Australia. It is a very personal journey. There are no great dramas for the character on the way. Instead the major conflicts for this character, like so many of us in real life, are internal. Her struggles are familiar. Beth is real—she’s your colleague, your best friend, and often yourself.

Each chapter not only moves the story forward, but also peels back the layers of Beth. She either needs to confront some of her personal demons, or she faces a long-ignored issue, or she has a very real leap in her own personal or spiritual development. And then, at the end of each chapter is Beth’s note to self—the advice she gives to herself, based on what she’s learnt.

It’s a great idea for a book.

Beth arrives in Peru and like so many of us in a foreign country, is able to unleash another version of herself. This part of the book is simply lovely. It’s filled with interesting characters and a great romance, and the guy is seriously hot! Once again, the only thing that stands in Beth’s way of true happiness is her tendency towards self-sabotage. (Note to self… that’s true for us all.) I was really cheering for Beth as she realises this, faces it, and heals it.

Alison Nancye’s debut novel is fresh and compelling. It’s an intensely personal note, not only to self, but also to the reader. It reminds you to listen to your inner voice.

The reader is taken on a journey that is not only geographical, but also internal. This lovely book is full of wisdom and gentle wit. It would make a great gift.

Give this book to your girlfriends. Read it once, and then read it again. It’s the type of book where the lessons in it will reveal themselves when it’s time for you to learn them.

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