Skin Deep is a very thoughtful novel looking at whether beauty is just ‘Skin Deep’ or whether what lies beneath is most important. Diana is a former model, pushed into modelling by her mother Bunny. She has never enjoyed being stared at and judged by her good looks and is desperate to be valued for her talent. She is also a talented artist, though this is not valued at all by her mother, and longs to be respected for her art as much as her looks. “See, I am more than a pretty face. Look at me. Look at all of this.” Living in Hulme in Manchester, she is caught up in the student scene of parties, late nights, drink and drugs. At a party, she discovers the son of a drug addicted couple hidden away in a room. Young Cal is only four years old but is kept away from the eyes of others to hide his facial deformity. The nature of this isn’t specified but sounds like some kind of congenital deformity, although I did wonder if it could have been caused by his parents’ drug-taking. Diana is inspired by the little boy both in her personal life and in her art and so begins a long relationship between them.
I found Skin Deep to be a very thought-provoking novel. I think we do all judge people we meet on initial appearances to a certain extent, until we get to know them better. This was certainly a story that made me reflect that we really do need to take that time to get to see below surface appearances. It also made me think about how we should be careful what we wish for. Cal in particular, felt that if he looked different, more normal if you like, that his life would be very different. To a certain extent he is probably right, he would have had a different life had he looked more like other people. However, painful surgery he has when younger – necessary for medical reasons – does not change how he feels about himself, even though his appearance does change a bit.
Diana was a fascinating character and my feelings towards her changed many times throughout the book. Initially I felt sympathy for her as she struggled to have her talent valued more than her looks. When she met Cal and was determined to make his life better for him, I felt she was someone to be admired. But gradually I began to feel that she was exploiting Cal for her own gain as she used him in her art and became quite angry with her. It seemed that she was using him to try to feel better about herself.
I was intrigued by the chapters from Cal’s point of view. Cal’s thoughts come as he lies heavily bandaged in a hospital bed. As well as wondering why he was there, it was interesting to read his recollections of his younger life. As this point, the reader gets to learn his take on some of the events previously told from Diana’s point of view. Quite often, his perceptions were very different.
Skin Deep is a book which I found an intriguing read and one which was thoughtfully written. It asks that the reader really considers what is beautiful and what is ugly, whether people can re-invent themselves by changing their looks and if does this make them a better person. I must make mention of the very clever ending. The author had guided me to think there was a particular way the story would end but in fact, I had mis-judged the situation. A thought-provoking and quietly compelling read.
My thanks to the author for my copy of the book. Skin Deep was published by Accent Press on Thursday 15th June in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online here: Skin Deep
From the back of the book
It’s what’s inside that counts…
Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.
Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.
Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?
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Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. She has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories, some of which have made the short lists of international competitions. Public Battles, Private Wars, was a Welsh Books Council Book of the month; Redemption Song was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. Her latest is Skin Deep. Alongside writing, Laura works as an editor & mentor for literary consultancies and runs workshops on aspects of craft. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including the Frome Festival, Gladfest, University of Kingston, The Women’s Library and Museum in Docklands. She lives in Brighton with her husband and sons.
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