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The Girl on the Pier is an extraordinary debut novel. Incredibly sure-footed, the author takes us on an enthralling page–turning journey full of drama, emotion and sagacity.
Packed with clever literary devices, the novel masterfully captures the desperate urgency of teenage attraction and the regretful yearning of young love remembered in later years. If only …
At the heart of the novel is narrator Patrick Clement’s search. A search for answers, a search for meaning, a search for love. As Clement forensically pieces together the face of a murder victim, so his past increasingly haunts his present, culminating in a shattering discovery.
It’s a beautifully written novel with some delightful passages of prose, and a hatful of well-observed aphorisms. The characters are roundly drawn, especially Clement, whose personality is expertly revealed as the novel and his forensic sculpture unfolds.
There are echoes here of John Fowles and I was reminded of The Collector more than once whilst reading Girl on the Pier. It really is that good.
Few debut novels have impressed me as much and I look forward to more from Mr Tomkins.
by Damien Parsonage
If like me, you like your literature to come with as many twists and turns as an incoming tsunami, then Paul Tomkins latest novel is absolutely for you.
I initially made the mistake of thinking I could pick up the book and read with the carefree abandon of a holiday romance; no chance.
This is a hypnotic and entrancing story woven through many decades of love, deceit, desire and despondency. The novel’s protagonist, Patrick is a complex character full of idiosyncrasies. He’s complex and yet beguiling, there’s something about him, which makes you feel uneasy, and yet you don’t quite understand why – and even at the end of the novel, when the story weaves to a conclusion, you can’t establish quite what your feelings are.
Patrick’s obsession with Black, the girl on the pier, takes the reader on journey from adulthood to childhood, through adolescence and back to adulthood; throughout, Tomkins weaves subplot after subplot, so that your mind is awash with ideas and visions of who, and what and when. As the story swerves off in one direction and catches you by surprise, yet again, then the post rationalisation of the plot reaffirms that you were just one step behind the author all along, and he’d laid down the clues for you, you’d just missed the subtle drop of the idea.
The beauty of “The Girl on the Pier” is it is so multi-layered; the words canter along at a pace and draw you deeper and deeper into the actual lives of the characters; the many twists keep you on your toes, forcing you to want to reread whole sections from chapters before to see what, if any, linkages you’d missed. And when you get to the end exhilarated and exhausted you feel like you’ve lived the lives of the characters played out and you’re not quite sure which one you’d really like to be, given the choice.
“The Girl on the Pier” is a mesmerising novel, brilliantly written and wonderfully constructed. If you like your novels to take you on a carefree journey from A to B, then sit down and buckle up, because you are just about to be removed from your comfort zone; you’re going to be turned upside down, shaken inside out and plonked back down in your favourite reading chair – you may or may not be still in the same clothes you started the journey on.
by Jemima Bird
Pro-tip: this may be Paul Tomkins' debut novel but make no mistake, having released 11 books of featured sportwriting, he is already an old hand at this publishing words malarkey. And it shows, too, however fiction may differ from sportswriting, Tomkins' tone and rhythm is assured from the start.
I'd read three of his 11 sportsbooks and followed his website for years so I was very curious to see how his foray into fiction would pan out. I must admit, though I like his sportswriting, I did not expect such a great debut. I bought the Kindle version yesterday and devoured it in a matter of hours. It is unputdownable, as people say.
I can recommend this book highly, to lovers of good writing in general. Tomkins will not disappoint you (though some of his characters may). Give this sinewy, seductive, surprising story a chance. You won't regret it.
by Kristján Ragnarsson
Paul Tomkins is an acclaimed Sports Writer, which for me is a genre I have little interest in. I discovered this though, his first novel several few months ago. I read it at great speed and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. This is really my kind of book. I like something set in recent times, with names I can remember and a plot that I can understand. I thought the characters were well described and the story line captured my imagination from the very first page. I've read it through for a second time in the last couple of weeks and again enjoyed it immensely. As a debut novel this a great first effort and I for one am looking forward to Paul's next novel. Well done.
by Mark Allan
This debut novel is rather gripping. Edge of your seat and thought provoking all wrapped in one. Failing memories, ghosts from the past, work and life are what hold the MC together while trying to find this girl, Black, who dissasppeared long ago. Great story.
by Jenn Z.
I received the galley of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
"It's the story of my life: desiring the impossible woman." This is one of the many themes repeated throughout this excellent novel. The story of Patrick's life reveals itself within the fragments of his female relationships, which overlap in a non-linear fashion. Over halfway in, I still couldn't decide the genre or the timeline (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). If it must be classified, I would consider it a literary mystery. The unexpected concluding plot twist left me breathless at 3 in the morning. I highly recommend it (actually, I already have).
by Kimberly S
This book is breathtaking psychological thriller that plays with the imagination of the reader. The main character Patrick is haunted by memories, and the author guides us through several time levels, from the seventies to the present time. The plot of the book is set mostly in Brighton, where we along with Patrick trying to find out what happened to the two women about whose fate we know only little. The fates of both are tied to a pier, one appeared in Patrick's past and the other appeared like bones at his work (he works as a forensic sculptor). The book draws us into the story, gradually pass through all corners of the past and present, events and feelings appear and then disappear.
The Girl on the Pier is very intelligently written book that I recommend to anyone who enjoys an interesting and original story.
---I recieved my copy via Netgalley in exchange for honest review.---
by Zita K.
5 out of 5 stars
“The Girl on the Pier” is haunting with twists and turns in a story that at times confuses yet fascinates the reader. What initially seems simple is far from it. This book is extremely well written The author’s words and descriptions are fully intended to paint a very vivid yet incomplete picture with “unfinished business and ongoing consequences”. Brilliant!
by Lance W. Anderson
4 out of 5 stars
A psychological romp through a man's memories. The loss of three women have affected Patrick throughout his life. His mother's suicide when he was young, a young girl Genevieve, when he was a young teen under the guardianship of his aunt, and Black a young photographer who spent one night with him on the pier. These women would haunt his memories and Black whom he looked for and could never find would always loom larger than life. It was her suggestion that led to his career as a forensic artist, reconstructing the skills of the dead of identification purposes.
How accurate are our memories? Can they protect us and alternately lead us to, wrong conclusions? Can they hide things from us to protect our fragile psyches? In this wonderfully written novel, Patrick will unveil his thoughts and actions, peel back the layers and expose his darkest secrets. Highly readable and suspenseful. An amazing achievement form first time novelist. Recommend for those who like introspective psychological novels.
by Diane Scholl