I Am Dust by Louise Beech

Thank you so much to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The decision to take part is my own and this review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast…
The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

Review

I read my first Louise Beech novel, Call Me Star Girl last year, and I loved it, Therefore, I was incredibly excited to be offered the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour for her latest novel, I Am Dust.

I’ll be honest. This book creeped the crap out of me. The story centres on three teens who tinker with a Ouija Board in a theatre in which the ghost of a murdered actress is said to haunt. At night. However, despite the fact that I do most of my reading at night and despite the fact that I’m pretty sure that at times my pulse reading on my FitBit was off the charts, I could not put this book down. It’s simply brilliant. The characters are, if not wholly likeable, then certainly relatable. Their actions, attitudes and troubles easily recognisable.

The narrative flips back and forth on a dual time line from the point of view of Chloe Dee, an usher at the Dean Wilson theatre. The acclaimed, and rumoured to be cursed, musical Dust is returning to huge fanfare, despite the fact that the original run was cut short following the murder of the actress who played the lead role of Esme Black. The announcement sparks a chain of events which lead Chloe to revisit one particular summer where she, her best friend Jess and fellow teen Ryan played Ouija Board in that very theatre.

Once more the writing is just spectacular. Loaded with suspense, it is incredibly tight and just deeply impressive. There are books where I find myself skipping chunks of description, in reading this, my eyes never felt the need to wander. They were transfixed, every word loaded and necessary. Louise Beech tells a story exceptionally well! I’ve got a couple of the author’s earlier novels in my TBR, and I truly am looking forward to reading them – in fact, I’m determined to read them during this lockdown period as I’ve promised myself a TBR catch up!

Back to the book….one of the things I was most impressed with was the characterisation of Chloe. There is a clear, marked difference between the narrative POV of teen Chloe and adult Chloe, her confusion and uncertainty came through really clearly, even reminding me of long forgotten memories of my own teenage years. I’ve read books which seem to be almost dismissive to those years and those emotions as frivolous in comparison to the concerns of adulthood with no thought to how formative they are. I Am Dust develops this idea and as a result Chloe became a fully fleshed out, rounded character to me. I was fully invested in her, and drawn into the story as a whole via her.

Despite the rather spooky nature of the novel, I am Dust is a thing of beauty and quite unlike anything I’ve read before. The glamour of showbiz, blends wonderfully with the heightened emotions of teenagers, hopes, dreams and aspirations all clash with the spiritual world at its climax, leading to an ending I didn’t expect, and was incredibly poignant – from nowhere, I found myself all choked up. Another stunning novel from an author who is going from strength to strength – I cannot wait to read more from her.

About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

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