CHILDREN OF PARADISE
A surreal, discomforting debut novel charts the fates of a ragtag group of cinema workers who are spat out by corporate takeover.
When Holly applies for a job at the Paradise - one of the city's oldest cinemas, squashed into the ground floor of a block of flats - she thinks it will be like any other shift work. She cleans toilets, sweeps popcorn, avoids the belligerent old owner, Iris, and is ignored by her aloof but tight-knit colleagues who seem as much a part of the building as its fraying carpets and endless dirt. Dreadful, lonely weeks pass while she longs for their approval, a silent voyeur. So when she finally gains the trust of this cryptic band of oddballs, Holly transforms from silent drudge to rebellious insider and gradually she too becomes part of the Paradise - unearthing its secrets, learning its history and haunting its corridors after hours with the other ushers. It is no surprise when violence strikes, tempers change and the group, eyes still affixed to the screen, starts to rapidly go awry...
I should not have started Children of Paradise at 21:30 on a Sunday evening! Although it’s more of a novella at around 200 pages, it sucked me right in and I just had to read it all in one sitting. In the book we meet Holly, who starts working at one of the cities oldest cinemas, the faded glory of Paradise. During her job we meet the cast of characters who work there and watch everything they have worked for slowly start to unravel.
Children of Paradise is a book all about its characters and we get to know them and see how they react to the crazy situation going on around them. The cast that inhabit Paradise; from ex-beauty queen manager Sally, film snob Cosmo or the eccentric customer Iris are so very different in their portrayals but still felt realistic, if a little strange. It’s not a happy read and it takes you on a real rollercoaster journey of emotions which is why I’d actually recommend reading this one in one go if you are able to. The writing is beautiful although at times it portrays disgusting and gross events which are harder to stomach.
Being a novella means that every word is important and its paced nicely. There is enough dedicated to the ‘good times’ at the beginning of the plot that when everything starts to go wrong you really feel upset and invested in the story. I personally don’t really know that much about classic cinema – there are film references throughout but not knowing them didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the book although I think you might get more out of it if you are a film-buff.
Although I would give this book 5 stars, I would find it difficult to recommend it to someone I know – it’s a niche book and a little weird and depraved in places. If you enjoy cinema and don’t mind a dark and upsetting tale about the human condition, give this a read – I personally could not put it down! Thank you to NetGalley & Atlantic Books for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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