Wednesday 29 July 2020

Dead Rock Stars - Guy Mankowski

‘The first page of my sister’s diary was a picture of Frances Farmer, facing a drawing of Ophelia. My sister’s psychic accomplices were all tragic figures…’

Emma Imrie was a Plath-obsessed, self-taught teenage musician dreaming of fame, from a remote village on the Isle of Wight. She found it too, briefly becoming a star of the nineties Camden music scene. But then she died in mysterious circumstances.

In the aftermath of Emma’s death, her younger brother, Jeff, is forced by their parents to stay at the opulent home of childhood friends on the island.

During a wild summer of beach parties and music, Jeff faces up to the challenges that come with young love, youthful ambition and unresolved grief. His sister's prodigious advice from beyond the grave becomes the only weapon he has against an indifferent world.

As well as the only place where the answers he craves might exist…

What did I think?

Dead Rock Stars is something quite different from what I would usually read and that's what makes it so unique and completely brilliant.  Through the voice of Emma Imrie, Guy Mankowski transports the reader from banal family life in the Isle of Wight to the drug-fuelled music scene in Camden, leaving us unsure as to which one actually did the most damage.  Emma releases her pain through her music and her band has just been discovered when her life is tragically cut short.

Jeff has been sheltered from the truth about his sister's death but he can't make sense of losing her at such a young age.  When Jeff finds Emma's diary he finds a way to be closer to her and also to find out what really happened in the lead up to her death.  Why didn't he just ask his parents, you ask?  Well that's because this is one messed up dysfunctional family and they'd probably lie to him without giving it a second thought.

Reading Emma's diary felt terribly voyeuristic; there was so much pain and brutal honesty contained in it that I felt guilty for reading it, yet simultaneously couldn't tear my eyes away from the page as I approached the inevitable conclusion.  Through the sheer talent of Guy Mankowski's writing, Emma's voice is so clear and distinct from that of Jeff that it really feels as if her diary is real.  

I loved the character of Jeff; I wanted to wrap him up in cotton wool as it seemed like he was growing up too fast but sometimes protecting someone is doing them more harm than good.  When left to his own devices, Jeff reminded me of a polaroid photograph as I saw him develop before my eyes.  He just needed to know the truth in order to move on and I think that's a valuable lesson to be learned.

Brutally honest and devastatingly moving, Dead Rock Stars is an emotional and highly original read.  I feel like I have had a glimpse behind the music industry's shiny golden curtain and found a sheer drop into darkness, depravity and despair.  An outstanding read and highly recommended.    
I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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