Book review: Carousel by Brendan Ritchie

For some time my pick of books hasn’t aligned with my other half’s and in principle that’s not an issue. It’s only impractical when I LOVE a story and I can never properly discuss it – the same obviously applies to my other half’s favourite picks.

Our conversations are limited to how good one writer/story is without ever being able to indulge in details – just to avoid potential spoilers making it redundant for the other person to read the book we liked.

The other half is currently perusing anything “local”. That means any story that’s set in our locality, regardless of the genre: fiction, biographies, non-fiction, thrillers you name it: if it’s set in Perth, he will read it.

To remedy our predicament I couldn’t resist Brendan Ritchie’s debut novel Carousel. This post is basically an attempt to convince my other half he should READ this darn book. Without spoilers (oh dear me).

Carousel, a shopping centre in Perth’s south (only a mere 15 minutes drive away from our home), forms the setting of Brendan’s mystery/dystopian/sci-fi story. If you’re not living down under, don’t fret. Carousel’s shops and department stores are beautifully universal and anonymously exchangeable at the same time.

Four young protagonists find themselves at Carousel without knowing how or why they got here in the first place. The shopping centre is eerily empty. The exits are locked. No one can enter. No one leaves.  There is no contact to the outside world.

After the euphoria of unlimited binge eating, drinking, shopping, playing of video games and watching DVDs leaves Nox, the twins Taylor and Lizzy and Rocky deal with their confinement in their own ways.

Brendan’s depiction of what it would be like to be locked inside a shopping centre is thoughtful and clever. Nox, who tells us the story of living with three strangers in an even stranger place, is a writer coming to terms with his own creative output. Lizzy and Taylor, both musicians couldn’t handle the separation and isolation from the rest of the world any more differently. Then there is Rocky, the only non-artist member of the little group, who remains a quiet, shy mystery.

Brendan Ritchie plays well with his story’s eerie tension and keeps a tight lid on the why and how until the very end. Without wanting to sound clichéd, it is really about the characters’ confinement their weird challenges and opportunities.