The Artificial Anatomy of Parks is a beautifully written novel showing the effects of a terrible secret on one family and in particular on Tallulah. When we first meet Tallie as a young woman she is living in a damp, grimy room, working as a waitress and has just heard that her father has had a heart attack. We learn she has not seen her heart surgeon father for five years nor any of the rest of her family. She is persuaded to visit her father by her aunts and we start to discover more about this fractured family and the secrets it keeps. Tallie was sent to boarding school by her father following a family tragedy and has always felt very distant from him. He was always there for his patients but not for her.
Tallie isn’t a character I initially warmed to, seeming cold and self-contained, rejecting friendship and her family. But as I learned more about her earlier life, I ended up just wanting to give her a hug! As a child she is aware that there is something to hide about her Uncle Jack, who she has hardly ever seen and who is mentioned only in whispers. She overhears snippets of conversations which don’t give her the full picture of what is going on and she doesn’t really understand. I’m sure many of us remember our curiosity being piqued by whispered or abruptly cut off adults’ conversations when we were young!
For me the strength of this novel was in the character development. From her reserved father, to sensible Aunt Gillian, flighty Aunt Vivienne, her terrifying grandmother, Toby, Malkie and Tallie’s various cousins, all are so well defined you feel that you really have an insight to them. Even those who seem to be unlikable at first are shown to have redeeming features. Tallie’s relationship with her grandmother was one I particularly liked. Far from terrifiying, she becomes Tallie’s ally when all is going wrong at school for her.
This is a stunning, quietly compelling novel, an exploration of the effects of secrets on a family. But it is also a novel about finally coming to know the truth, rediscovering love and how to love yourself. A brilliant debut – I will be watching out for more by Kat Gordon.
My thanks to Jessica Reid at Legend Press for providing me with a copy of the book via Netgalley. The Artificial Anatomy of Parks was published on 1st July 2015 and you can order a copy by clicking here.
What the book is about:
At twenty-one, Tallulah Park lives alone in a grimy bedsit. There’s a sink in her bedroom and a strange damp smell that means she wakes up wheezing. Then she gets the call that her father has had a heart attack. Years before, she was being tossed around her difficult family; a world of sniping aunts, precocious cousins, emigrant pianists and lots of gin, all presided over by an unconventional grandmother. But no one was answering Tallie’s questions: why did Aunt Vivienne loathe Tallie’s mother? Who was Uncle Jack and why would no one talk about him? And why was everyone making excuses for her absent father? As Tallie grows up, she learns the hard way about damage and betrayal, that in the end, the worst betrayals are those we inflict on ourselves. This is her story about the journey from love to loss and back again.