Shattered….

‘Christel is at shattering point’ the back-cover blurb says of Kirsten Warner’s The Sound of Breaking Glass. Shattering.

But I’m still feeling shattered.  And I’m already three days out from finishing the novel.

There’s a lot going on in this book.

Christel’s father is a Holocaust survivor. When we first meet him, at the dinner table, he’s in a tirade about the Latvians and Nazis in the Second World War. Photos from his past emerge. Then there’s that suitcase. And his trips away, when he comes home emotionally – and physically scarred. Big bits of her father’s jigsaw are missing. Christel is what’s known as Second Generation and carries the burden of her father’s experiences. She has an inquiring mind…

And it’s into Christel’s mind that Kirsten Warner takes us and back into events in her teens with the omnipresent Big C, Christel’s inner critic, always there to judge when life dumps yet another blow on her. How much more can she bear? What really happened to her father during the war?

Another story weaves through the novel in the present-day of Christel’s work – the ugly tense world of NZTV reality show production in Auckland. (an antidote if you’re ever thinking of this career.) Here Christel meshes her activist conscience in the Women Against Surplus Plastics movement with her career, only adding to her stress.

The characters in The Sound of Breaking Glass are often edgy, slightly sharp or just plain scary: Karate Man turns up to torment her, Fat Controller is the bully, even her best friend deceives her. On the other hand, her husband and two young children are one light in her life.  And Christel? Fractured, fragile, and sensitive. Is she also intelligent, strong and courageous and will she come through what life has thrown at her? I’ll leave you to find out.

The writer’s style is clean and sharp and the flow of the script smooth as Kirsten Warner weaves her way in and out of time frames, she trips around Auckland, dips into scenes overseas and varies the voices. It makes for a captivating read.

However, it’s no real surprise that The Sound of Breaking Glass is a polished work of fiction. (It’s Kirsten’s debut novel by the way) This long-time writer‘s  CV includes Honours ( First Class )in Master of Creative Writing, winner of the 2008 Landfall Essay Competition. She has published poetry, and non-fiction books, and worked extensively in a range of media, including newspapers and TV. Her pieces of magazine journalism are a joy to read.

Did I enjoy this novel? Enjoy is the wrong word. This morning I messaged round my friends. Have just read a must-read. ‘The Sound of Breaking Glass’ by Kirsten Warner. Topped NZ Booksellers List on the week of its publication this September. P.S. Not for the faint hearted.

The Sound of Breaking Glass, by Kirsten Warner, Makaro Press, 2018

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Janet Hart

Janet Hart lives in Nelson, where she taught English in secondary schools for nearly 30 years, before dabbling in a little historical New Zealand Art. In 2012 she took up Magazine Journalism, which now consumes her.