Review first appeared online in February 2017 – now republished here.
Title: The Night Brother
Author: Rosie Garland
Publisher: The Borough Press
Genre: Historical fiction, Fantasy
Book format: Hardcover
Description: Rich are the delights of late nineteenth-century Manchester for young siblings Edie and Gnome. They bicker, banter, shout and scream their way through the city’s streets, embracing its charms and dangers. But as the pair mature, it is Gnome who revels in the night-time, while Edie is confined to the day. She wakes exhausted each morning, unable to quell a sickening sense of unease, and confused at living a half-life.
Reaching the cusp of adulthood, Edie’s confusion turns to resentment and she is determined to distance herself from Gnome once and for all. But can she ever be free from someone who knows her better than she knows herself?
Exploring the furthest limits of sexual and gender fluidity, this is a story about the vital importance of being honest with yourself. Every part of yourself. After all, no-one likes to be kept in the dark.
Review: In the 1890s in Manchester, Young siblings Edie and her brother Gnome sneak out to spend a wonderful night having fun and watching fireworks. As the pair grow up, though, Gnome enjoys the night and his antics cause trouble so Edie tries to distance herself. But how far away can she really get from someone who knows her better than she knows herself?
This is such an amazing book I couldn’t put it down! From the moment I read the first page I was hooked. The Night Brother is an historical fiction novel but with a sort of magical twist that would draw in many light fantasy readers too. The book is told in the first person and the chapters alternate between Edie and Gnome. Each chapter focuses on one character and is told from their viewpoint.
It only took the first page to hook me into the story, it’s so well written. As well as told in the first person the book is also in the present tense. Until now I’ve never been a fan of present tense narration in books but it is done so well here that I didn’t even notice, it didn’t bother me and actually increased the excitement.
The story is interesting and intriguing, after Edie and Gnome’s night out together the tale moves through the years as they grow up into their teens and then into adulthood. There is never a dull moment in the story and where Edie’s chapter finishes, Gnome’s takes off, adding such intrigue and wonder. At first the two stories seem quite separate but as you read on they become more intertwined and every chapter is so well written that I just couldn’t put this book down. The entire book from start to finish was so gripping, as soon as I finished one chapter I was itching to start another.
I won’t reveal what happens in the story as it would spoil the enjoyment but it’s such a good book I could never guess what was going to happen next. As the pair of siblings grow up there’s a distinct and different voice for each character and even though so different to each other you end up feeling a connection with both. The book also has a wonderful way of vividly describing scenes without feeling over-descriptive, the action never slows down.
The book has about two uses of the f swear word with just a few s words too. It also does have some sex described, and while there’s some detail it’s not throughout the book and both the language and the sex fits the story very well. Some mature teens as well as adults would love to read this book. It’s not just a simple story about siblings it’s so much more and covers sexuality and gender identity all with an amazing historical setting, and of course that slight fantasy-like twist.
The overall story is exciting but often dark though lighter moments do happen. It has a really satisfying ending and one that again I didn’t predict, I really enjoyed a moment towards the end with Edie’s Grandmother and the last chapter which is short but concludes the whole book so well. A few weeks ago I fell into a reading slump where I stopped enjoying books, but this one novel has excited me so much it’s made me love reading again! A real exciting and also thought-provoking page-turner that I can really recommend.
Do you like this book? Have you read it? What about historical fiction or fantasy novels? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂