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The Stars in the Bright Sky Paperback
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Top customer reviews
The epigraph is from Kafka and Warner pitch perfectly uses the socially equalising, Kafkaesque effect of passengers in transit to bring his disparate group together. The biggest character is the supreme chav, Manda whose toxicity is awe inspiring. Think your average "Big Brother" wannabe. In fact, that's her dream. She has stayed in the town where she grew up, along with Kylah and Chell, while Kay and Finn have escaped to university, to study architecture and philosophy respectively, and are here again reunited along with Finn's mysteriously beautiful and rich English friend, Ava. Manda in particular though is genuinely very funny, albeit in a way that you wouldn't want to encounter very often.
The girls' initial plans for a cheap European holiday are quashed when Manda (who else?) loses her passport and so, with a day to kill, the girls set off for a day in the country at Hever Castle before plans are re-scheduled. Much of the time is spent in the soulless confines of the airport bars.
I have slightly mixed views about the book though. On the one hand, it is very, very funny in places and it kept me reading wanting to know what was going to happen. It's certainly entertaining and a great deal of fun. It would make a good holiday reading choice.
However, I have reservations about it. Much of the word-count is made up of the entertaining conversation, which Warner has a strong ear for, particularly the Scottish mannerisms. But the more descriptive passages are what I would term literary in style - full of some strange and not always successful metaphors and similes, and the clash of the two styles jarred a little for me.
There was also a distinct arc of a story in "The Sopranos". Events changed the characters and our perceptions of them. This isn't the case with "The Stars in the Bright Sky". It felt to me like a set of great characters in search of a story. I can understand Warner's keenness to return to the gang, but while it does effectively send up the drinking youth culture, that's quite an easy target and I was left frustrated that the story didn't develop the characters. It felt to me like one of those endless film sequels where the characters that we've grown to love struggle to live up to the story that made them. Personally, I'm surprised it made it onto the Booker long list.
Without giving too much away, there's also a passage towards the end when things get stronger than alcohol and cigarettes that seemed not to fit particularly well. Perhaps the consequences of this event will see these girls re-united by Warner again, which wouldn't altogether be a bad thing.
Yet for all this, it is a very funny book and it is an interesting view on female friendship that is, sadly, probably quite accurate.