Friday, 6 November 2009

The Naked Drinking Club by Rhona Cameron

Ok, I'll be honest. I picked up this book for three superficial reasons:
1) It is set in Australia
2) The title (and sub-title, which reads: "drunk, disorderly & down under")
3) Russell Brand's endorsement on the front.

Lame, I know. But there is a bit more to this book than meets the eye, although I'm going to say right now that it didn't meet the potential I thought it had. There were some really insightful moments and some truly tragic scenes, and some scarily precise depictions of destructive and hedonistic behaviour. At times, though, Cameron's writing brought the whole thing down, and it occasionally read like a piece of chick-lit fluff.

Kerry arrives in Sydney plastered and with her tongue down a stranger's throat. She has drunk sex with him for a few days before wandering off to Glebe to find a job and start on her 'mission' - the reason she left Edinburgh. When she starts working for a company called ART, selling mass-produced paintings door-to-door (flogging them as originals), the path of her destiny seems to lead her into increasingly more bizarre circumstances. Day-long binges of alcohol and drugs, sex with strangers, drunk phone calls to her grandfather in Scotland, and the intriguing banter with her boss, Anaya, keep Kerry on her toes and in a confusing whirlwind - and, seemingly, away from her ultimate goal.

Just underneath the surface of all this partying and promiscuity is real heart: Kerry is a broken girl, and she's looking for something to heal her. The characters are touching and true, the setting of Sydney sizzles with its unique vivacity, and the emotional desperation and tenseness builds well throughout the story. There was just a little - I don't know. Something held this book back from being the moving, imprint-leaving novel it had all the ingredients to be. Having said that, it is Cameron's debut - and by day she is a comedienne... so perhaps that's why it felt so light at times. I enjoyed it - there were some really hilarious moments and it maintained a level of frankness that would make the bluntest comedians blush.

Maybe it didn't come to be what I thought it could be. But as it is, The Naked Drinking Club interesting, fun, tragic and outrageous with subtle, dark tones. Weightier than your average beach read.

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