Earlier this year, I reviewed Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, the first title from Dialogue Books, an imprint of Little, Brown. The publishing house is giving a platform to distinctive and marginalised voices, shining a spotlight on stories for, about and by readers from the LGBTQI+, disability, working class and BAME communities. My latest review copy is Lucy Ayrton’s One More Chance*, which is released today.
Ayrton is Communications Manager of a prison charity and has spent time working with the Mother and Baby Unit at Holloway Prison. Her novel has been shaped by the people she has met through her work, which has proved invaluable. Such a piece of literary fiction has the power to change attitudes and shape lives.
Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.
With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.
Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.
Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in…
Deep down, Dani is a young woman who desperately wants to better herself but circumstances keep holding her back. Her life is like a game of snakes and ladders; one wrong move and she’s right back where she started. I found myself willing her to make better decisions whilst also acknowledging that repeat offences are virtually a given.
I didn’t think I’d be able to relate to, or root for, a heroin addict serving her tenth sentence at the age of 23, but Ayrton not only humanised Dani but created an anti-heroine (pun unintended) who is truly remarkable. The first person narrative worked well and, as with my favourite book of the year, The Hate U Give, I found it really interesting to have the story told by someone who I initially thought was nothing like me.
The only negative, for me, was the quasi-supernatural aspect, which I found to be a distraction from an otherwise moving and hard-hitting story. I felt the Dani-Martha storyline could have been more impactful if Martha had simply spent time mentally manipulating and coercing Dani. That said, 90% of the book was damn near faultless and I highly recommend it.
To find out more about new releases from Dialogue Books, check out publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove’s piece for The Guardian (she has a fascinating life and career story) and pop along to the launch at Waterstones Bristol Galleries. I’ll be super jealous.
*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes and all thoughts are my own
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