Author of the Month
Name: Helen Fitzgerald
Most Recent Book: Viral
'‘Viral’ is a book that will make you think.'
‘So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.’
When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister, Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.
Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls and successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? Can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn't want to be found?
There’s an urban legend in my family that the only reason my Mother has never watched ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ is because the first word uttered is the F-word. I mention this because of the opening line of ‘Viral’ - one that has caused quite some discussion amongst readers. To me it is the best opening line I have ever read. It’s iconic, the perfect hook, grabbing your attention round the scruff of the neck and setting the tone of the whole novel.
I’ve long been a fan of the work of Helen Fitzgerald, and couldn’t wait to read ‘Viral’, which is quite possibly her best work yet. I had to regularly force myself to put the book down because while I could have quietly and easily devoured it in a few short hours, I really wanted to savour every word, and reflect on the actions and reactions of the characters. The reason for this is because ‘Viral’ is a book that deserves your full concentration, and thought.
The characters are sculpted to the extremes of their traits, the hard stiff judge of a mother, in contrast to the almost carefree, light-heartedness of the father and the studious hard working adoptive daughter, Su, in contrast to the troublesome teen wild child of their natural daughter, Leah. Yet each felt well crafted, like any one of them could fit into my own family. Reading ‘Viral’ brought back many of my own memories of bad decisions, teenage angst, and sibling rivalry. It has also made me very glad that I made all my mistakes before the internet was such an integral part of our lives!
There is so much to this book. I dare anyone reading it not to identify with some part of the story, from the parental favouritism and desire to protect your children at all costs, to the way that one single unguarded moment can define who we are and the struggle to accept and change the perceptions of others. The impact of seemingly innocent actions in the ‘spirit of fun’ and how they can impact on the people around us. 'Viral' is a book that will make you think.
It is a book that I am a little sad I won’t get to read for the first time again, but saying that, I know I will discover more of this amazing novel from a second read. I feel in my bones that ‘Viral’ will be one of the biggest novels of 2016.
Reviewed by: J.P.