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I have recently gotten a Kindle and am making a real effort to read as much as I used to before the internet came along and distracted me. Therefore I check Amazon's daily Kindle deal every day for books that catch my eye.
Diamond Star Halo by Tiffany Murray was one such book. I was seduced by the recommendation from Mark Radcliffe, a DJ I really like and an author in his own right. As it was only 99p, I eagerly downloaded this and raced through the book I was currently reading so that I could get stuck into this as soon as possible.
Tiffany Murray grew up in the Welsh Borders with her mother and stepfather, a music producer. They owned a house, Rockfield, where bands such as Queen came to rehearse and record. I was unaware of this fact before I started reading Diamond Star Halo, but as you will find this heavily influenced the plot of the novel.
Halo is a girl who lives on a farm in Wales with her parents, siblings and grandmother. Her father is a producer and owner of the recording studios at their home, Rockfarm. Many bands come to visit, and one summer in 1977, an American band arrives with their heavily pregnant female singer Jenny. Due to tragic circumstances, the baby that Jenny has while at Rockfarm, Fred, is adopted and raised by Halo's family.
The novel traces the years from 1977 until the present day, describing the effect that Fred has on all their lives, and in particular the special bond he has with Halo. Fred himself becomes a famous musician just like his parents were, and the book follows this path along with the lives of Halo's fragile mother, slightly eccentric grandmother, cross-dressing brother Vince, and her kind, music-obsessed father.
The book is divided into 3 parts, both focusing on a specific year in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, before finally ending on the present day. I enjoyed finding out what the family had been up to in the interim years, and how their characters had moved on. There were some nice touches to set the scene for each year, such as mentions of the deaths of Elvis and Princess Diana, and discussion of bands from Manchester in anoraks during the period of the book that is set in the '90s. It is a very descriptive novel and it's easy to imagine what the characters and farm look like - I think this would make a very good film.
Some of the characters felt very real, for example the slightly lonely and tragic brother Vince, who wore make-up and was obsessed with David Bowie. I really could imagine what Vince was like, and I personally would have much preferred if the book had been told from his point of view rather than Halo's!
The main attraction of this novel for me was that it was set in the world of music, so of course I loved the many mentions of Bowie, Cash, and the like, and how Halo's father used to pray to various rock stars each evening.
I felt like the book kind of drifted along with no real sense of anything happening. Of course, this does lend itself to the hazy, dreamy impression you get of the farm and the hot summers, but for me I felt I was waiting for some big event or climax that did not necessarily ever materialise. I didn't feel any sense of tension - the story meanders along at the same sort of pace until the very end.
Around the middle of the book, a slight paranormal aspect was introduced which I found a little bit odd. I felt as if it this was just sort of dropped into the book randomly, and I would have preferred it if this angle had either been left alone completely, or else explored more fully.
As a female who spent her teenage years with posters of rock stars on her walls, I really wanted to fall in love with Fred in the way that all the characters did. However, I found his flighty, flirty nature kind of annoying and overall I have to say I found him a bit of a self-obsessed twit. Oh no... I really hope this isn't a sign of me getting old!
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
This is available from Amazon for £5.59 new, and from only 1p used (minus postage). The Kindle deal on this novel is no longer available, and so the Kindle version costs £5.03 at present.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS?
Hmmm. For 99p this was a pleasant enough read, but I would not rush to re-read it, and I certainly wouldn't have been pleased if I'd forked out £5.03 for it. If the book was on offer again, I'd definitely tell people to give it a go, but not for full price.
Going by some of the book's reviews on Amazon, it seems like most people loved Diamond Star Halo so I appear to be in the minority. I wanted to love this purely because it was focused around music and a rock star, but sadly it left me feeling a little bit cold.