Alexander Beresford CHARLA Book Review

CHARLA hates her daughter Amelie. The novel goes into detail about exactly why this is but let’s just say that CHARLA didn’t exactly have the happiest childhood, she also has some jealousy issues and when her unfaithful husband left her things just got worse. Ever since Amelie was a child her mother has been there to bring her discomfort. Waiting extra long before breastfeeding her, drawing a bath slightly too hot or too cold, awakening her by yanking on her hair, ‘accidentally’ tripping her and so on. But Amelie had no idea, and neither did anybody else. CHARLA hid her hatred exceedingly well, careful not to be too obvious. And as Amelie grew older her mother’s methods had to evolve. Feeding her food she hated, burning her scalp with a careless tap of a curling iron while styling her hair. Then one day as CHARLA is pondering her life without her husband (whom she stills loves) an idea blossoms with a single word. Demon. And with that CHARLA unleashes a demonic force upon her daughter and prepares to sit back and enjoy the show. But it soon becomes apparent that this demon is not completely under control.

One thing I experience much too frequently (not so much in novels but in films) is the presence of a sinister demonic entity which turns out to be not quite so sinister at all. Slamming doors, knocking items off shelves and moving furniture around seems to be as far as some of these demons or ghosts are willing to go. Thankfully CHARLA invokes a truly terrifying demon which has a much more violent impact on Amelie’s life than a lot of its Hollywood-born cousins. Not content with just giving people a bit of a fright this demon physically manifests itself in violent confrontations, with sometimes fatal consequences. Pushing people down stairs, choking, raping and causing ‘accidents’ are all part of its brutal arsenal. It’s nice to have a truly threatening demon.

CHARLA is paced quite well with enough action and tension to keep you interested throughout its entirety. The protagonist and title character is very well written and comes across as a cold, calculating and diabolical woman whose hatred seems to know no bounds. This was nice because often these nasty female characters come across as quite camp and it’s rare to find one with a nice level of complexity and depth to her character. Unfortunately when it comes to her daughter Amelie my thoughts are that she could perhaps have been written quite a bit better, mostly because her character did seem a little inconsistent for her age. Her aged is placed at 25 but she seemed to come across to me as quite a bit younger, maybe 18 or so especially in some of her interactions with her mother and her friend. Having said this though I don’t think it was enough to detract too seriously from the story.

Amelie also has a fianc√©, Michael. It’s obvious that his part is as yet another tool used by CHARLA to bring pain to her daughter but personally I don’t think he really had enough time in the book to make much of an impact and if his character had been thrown out entirely I honestly don’t think it would have made too much a difference to the story at all.

Apart from these minor criticisms I really did enjoy CHARLA and in fact I read it from front to back in just two sittings. It has a nice flowing story, a devious protagonist, a formidable demon and enough tension to keep you reading. The character problems I described aren't really surprising given that this is Alexander Beresford’s first novel and I can seen the characterization being improved with time.
Beresford definitely has promise as an author and I look forward to his next offering.

CHARLA is available through Black Bed Sheet.

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