Book Review: Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

Sweet Damage
Title: Sweet Damage
Author: Rebecca James
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Source: Book supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Rebecca James is the author of BEAUTIFUL MALICE, SWEET DAMAGE and the forthcoming COOPER BARTHOLOMEW IS DEAD. She has worked as a waitress, a kitchen designer, an English teacher in both Indonesia and Japan, a barmaid, and (most memorably) a mini-cab telephone-operator in London. Rebecca lives in Canberra, Australia, with her partner and their four sons.

About The Book:
‘I still dream about Anna London’s house. In my dreams it’s as if the house itself has sinister intentions. But in real life it wasn’t the house that was responsible for what happened. It was the people who did the damage …’

When Tim Ellison finds a cheap room to rent in the perfect location in Sydney it looks like a huge stroke of luck. In fact the room comes with a condition, and the owner of the house, the mysterious Anna London, is unfriendly and withdrawn. When strange and terrifying things start happening in the house at night, Tim wonders if taking the room is a mistake. But then his feelings for Anna start to change, and when her past comes back with a vengeance, Tim is caught right in the middle of it. A thrilling roller-coaster of a story – Read it with the lights on!

General Observations:
~Great Narrative: The pacing and plot twists are well planned out, just when I thought I had something figured out – BAM! The reader is smacked in the face, which is great. The mystery has a satisfying and understandable resolution and Anna and Tim grow and change for the better. It’s perfectly fine to take time out to figure out what you want to do with your life, and it’s okay to not know what you’re going to do either.

~Interesting Characters: there’s very much a class warfare struggle going on here, but I like the contrast between Lilla and Marcus/Fiona, both grew up in low socio-economic families, both of them still carry the scars of an emotionally traumatizing childhood (growing up poor or even lower-middle class is not easy), however in contrast to Lilla, Marcus and Fiona managed to move past it and become successful despite this. However, I have a problem with the comparison between Anna and Lilla. Both have problems with their mothers and while I know Lilla is supposed to be the Villain of this piece but she does make a valid point about money and privilege.

~Mental Illness: The topic of mental illness is a difficult thing to discuss in reality, especially since there are a lot of problematic aspects that come up with family members and doctors, as most doctors and family members do not understand what it is like to personally affected by depression and anxiety. However, Rebecca James handles Anna’s agoraphobia, anxiety and depression in a realistic and understanding way. Too many times Authors use character like Tim as a Knight In Shining Armour, and it’s wrong because mentally ill people don’t need to be rescued. Mentally ill people need support, empathy and help so that they can help themselves. Tim is supportive of Anna in an emphatic and compassionate manner that’s not patronizing. I still have the problem of trying to fix things instead of just being there for that person and letting people be upset (we all have the right to feel anxious and depressed, we all have the right to feel and express emotions, negative or positive). It’s really refreshing for an author to get this right because unfortunately most of the time Authors don’t or are down right offensive.

~There Are No Therapists: However, while I think Lilla is hideous bitch for judging Anna, as I mentioned before Anna’s wealth does give her the position to stay home and take time out to recover (poor people can’t afford to do this, regardless of their anxiety). It also gives her the ability to pursue professional help for her psychological issues (in fact, organizing an in-house therapy session for her is never mentioned despite the fact that one is clearly needed).

~Plot Hole: Also the Australian child support system doesn’t work that way, sure Lilla’s mum might be taking $200 dollars under the table (without anyone’s knowledge or government interference), but why would she agree to that? The child support system takes a percentage of Parent B’s wages, and while there are ways around paying child support or minimizing how much child support should be paid (unemployment or getting remarried), a single mother presumably living on welfare is well aware that she could be earning a lot more than $200 extra (and lets not even get started on all the money Lilla’s mother could earn giving interviews in the tabloids), Lilla’s mother gains nothing by keeping silent.

AWWC 2016

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