I don't remember why I bought this book, I may have seen a review of it some months ago, or someone might have recommended it to me. Anyway it was an interesting read, though not a pleasant one. Set against the background of a film shoot in the mid-1970s, it is superficially about an unlikely relationship between two girls from very different backgrounds, but in fact is a coming of age story and is about character and the crushing of assumptions. As a great many books are. The most obvious word for it is "dark" - but that implies that Something Horrid Happens and you guess what it is from about page 17. Not the case here. Something Horrid does indeed happen, and it is shocking, and I still feel a bit sick from having read it yesterday, but it is Not What You Think.
I don't know how old Amanda Coe is, but I suspect she is too young to remember what life was like in England in the mid-1970s, at least as an adult. The period detail is there, and is OK, but there is not quite enough of it, and it does not quite convince - as if she does not have the confidence to put it all in. A book that starts with the obituary of a child star and has the context of a film starring Dirk Bogarde as a paedophile (well, who else would you have cast, in the 1970s?) might be about exploitation and corruption, might it not? No, actually, in this case.
Amanda Coe has, apparently, written scripts for the TV programme Shameless, which I have seen once or twice and found lame and unconvincing. It shows. I didn't grow up on a sink estate, but I know that people from Rough Backgrounds are not really as she writes them. I know enough to know that. The character of the child Pauline, from just such a background, deserves a more rounded treatment than she gets. But the fact that I can even write this in this way shows that I believed in the characters, to an extent - I could also immediately see all the characters in a TV series. Which is presumably what Amanda Coe intended. I wonder if it will happen. I can't say I liked this book, but I was mad to know what happened next, and ill with dread at the Something Horrid that looms larger with every page you turn (which I didn't, because I read it on a Kindle, but you know what I mean). And that's no small achievement. This was her first novel, and I shall look out for what she comes up with next.