Friday, 14 November 2008

Scuba Dancing by Nicola Slade

At the end of a tiring week in London, I was in the mood for some undemanding company, and I found it amongst The Gang in Nicola Slade's first book, Scuba Dancing (scuba dancing?, said the librarian as she renewed it, and I giggled because, of course, it's an in-joke in the book). As with my newly found favourite Sleuth, Mrs Malory, The Gang are people you could imagine making friends with – none of them are spring chickens and have all known painful episodes in their lives, and they are comfortable together not playing bingo. I think I identified most with Delia, the old bat who has decorated her house almost entirely in pink and who likes to be outrageous, but all of them have a charm and vivacity which make you want to settle down in their company with a nice cup of tea.

Our protagonist, Finn, has escaped from an unhappy relationship – memo, never fall in love with your boss – to live with her older sister. Instead of finding a "proper" job she finds herself talking herself into a job as assistant to Hedgehog, proprietor of a shop which sells tarot cards and crystals, and even filling in as occasional clairvoyant. Meanwhile, her sister Julia and the other Gang members are fundraising, in slightly riotous fashion, for the holiday of a lifetime.

This is a strictly non-serious and comfy book, which recognises nonetheless the kind of difficulties which can go with increasing age – frail or difficult parents, financial insecurity, loneliness (the author, who looks positively slender in her photographs on the web, considerably underestimates the agonies of the expanding waistline, but this is my only criticism). There's a great deal to be said for spending time with people you like, whether you are a character in a novel or a reader, and Ursula's golden-eyed angel is worthy of a sequel in his own right. Meanwhile, I'm off to look for Nicola Slade's second book,
Murder Most Welcome. For anyone who would like a taster, Nicola has posted a couple of short stories on her website, where you can also see some of her beautiful paintings.


  1. Dear Geranium Cat,
    You're my new Best Friend!
    Thank you for such a great review, I'm so glad you enjoyed Scuba and I hope you'll have as much fun with 'Murder Most Welcome'. (Nearly finished the sequel to that book so fingers crossed the publisher likes it!)
    The Victorian mystery is set in the same part of England as Scuba, namely not far from Winchester in Hampshire - a great place to visit by the way, much nicer than London!
    Thanks again, it's lovely to have people enter my world.

  2. I'm always delighted to hear when an author whose work I enjoy is just finishing a book!

    I only visit London because I have to - would much rather visit Winchester, which I don't really know, although I used to spend holidays in Hampshire when I was young.

  3. Oh! I have this book, in fact a copy Nicola sent me, and I STILL haven't gotten to it. I must, I must. I think I need a speed reading course. :<)

  4. an excellent review, a book I must pick up while I'm over there! thank you, Geranium Cat! (My husband is frowning already!)

  5. Nan, I learnt to speed read, it hasn't helped, you just add more to the pile because you know you'll get through them faster! Seriously, though, I'm pleased to be slowing down and taking greater pleasure in good writing, as I get older.

    Susan, you are going to be so weighed down. Can you bribe the children to carry books back for you, too?

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