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I am lucky enough to have a friend who is always buying books as she is a member of a book group so I often borrow books she recommends. The latest one was Baggage by Emily Barr. Emily Barr has also written Backpack.
The book has a picture of a woman sitting on a case with a long road stretching out into the horizon. At the top of the book is an aeroplane and the aeroplanes tracks have spelt out baggage in the sky. Underneath it says Too much? Just dump it From just looking at the front of this book I got the idea that this was about someone who travelled abroad to escape from her problems. The book cover is an accurate description of the story.
The story centres around three main characters Lina, Sophie and Larry. Sophie is backpacking in Australia when she sees someone she recognises but hasnt seen for over 10 years. This person is Daisy Fraser, her childhood friend and someone who she thought had jumped off the Severn Bridge while awaiting trial over the death of four people. Daisy has a ten year old son and is pregnant, she however denies that she is Daisy Fraser and claims she is Lina, an Australian living in Craggy Rock.
Sophie returns to England and confides in her boyfriend Larry that she saw Daisy. Larry decides to take Sophie to Australia to help her find her friend. Sounds like a kind, generous boyfriend, however Larry is a journalist and sees this as an opportunity to get the news story of his life.
The story continues with Sophie and Larry travelling to Australia in pursuit of Daisy and all that enfolds in that search.
Daisy/Lina She is a very interesting and complex character. My opinions of her changed as I read the book. At the start we know she was awaiting trial over the death of 4 people which makes you think she isnt a very nice person however as the story continues you cant help but like her and admire her. She has become a very strong and determined woman but despite this she remains scared and never really settled, always looking over her shoulder in-case she is found out. She made me think about how difficult it must be just to up and leave your life and start anew somewhere else, having to make new friends and concoct a new life and a new past for yourself. Its not something I could ever do or want to do!
Sophie Sophie comes across as a lovely girl but slightly naïve and vulnerable. She tries to see the best in people but is taken advantage of by her boyfriend Larry. However during the story she becomes stronger as a result of the events that happen and is a good friend to Lina/Daisy.
Larry I didnt like Larry right from the start of the book. I guess he is the stereotypical paparazzi journalist out to get his story with no thought of what damage he might do in the process. He has little respect for people. He places a lot of importance in his career but ends up being lonely because of his choices. His character confused me somewhat and there is a twist in the story that I wasnt expecting.
What I liked
I enjoyed this book. The pace of the book was good, it made you want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. The author gets inside the heads of the characters so you can understand what they are thinking and why they do certain things. The author writes the book with the chapters changing from Linas/Daisys story to Larrys story. I liked the way she did this because it made me think that Lina was living her life and Larry was living his life but now the two were brought together and had influence on each others future.
I also liked the way the author added bits of information about the characters past, especially about Daisys life. This helped you understand why she did the things she did but by adding only a little information at a time makes you want to keep reading and keeps your interest up.
What I didnt like
Without spoiling the story I didnt like the ending. I cant say much more about why as that would spoil the book but it didnt end the way I would have liked it to end.
Its a good book with an interesting storyline and certainly has a page turning quality to it. It would make a good holiday read.
Having recently read Cuban Heels by Emily Barr, I was quite keen to get my hands on the second book shed written, which somehow had escaped me at the time it was first published. When I found out it featured Oz, it soon became top of my pile to read next!
* The plot *
Imagine this. Your name is Sophie, youre a 29 year old female, travelling alone around Australia. You hit a small town and by pure chance you meet a woman, a person so familiar to you that you can scarcely believe it. This is your best friend from England, someone who disappeared from your life ten years ago, presumed dead. Her name was Daisy Fraser, but this woman says her name is Lina Pritchett. You know shes lying, and is pretending not to recognise you but you want to know why she pretended to jump off the Severn Bridge after the death of several friends at a drugs party and left you mourning her ever since.
Back in London, your boyfriend Larry is a journalist. When you return from your backpacking in Oz, in your excitement you tell Larry that you think youve found your best friend who vanished a decade ago and seems to have invented a new life for herself in the Australian Outback. Larry never knew Daisy but has seen how you have suffered over never finding out what happened to her, and he thinks this may make one heck of a good story .
Lina, meanwhile, has had her cover blown after years of living a lie. I am dead inside. This life is over.
Told in alternate chapters, detailing Lina and Larry, this book delves into Linas old life, a past that she has travelled thousands of miles to escape.
* Whats good *
I liked the way that Barr has switched chapters very cleverly, one minute being Lina, the next Larry. Both ways are told in the present tense which isnt something I usually warm to, but in this book it works. Snippets of Daisys life are slotted into the current storyline with ease, giving us a taster of whats about to happen but yet only giving us a frustratingly tiny glimpse of life back then.
Linas character hides a sadness, perhaps regret. After shes seen Sophie she desperately tries to cover her tracks, informing family and friends of people that may want to come and find her after she evaded taxes in England and to keep her whereabouts secret. The fact that shes pregnant throughout the story increases her desire to keep the past behind her.
The relationships between Sophie and Larry new and exciting and Lina and husband Tony, settled and comfortable. Or are they? Are Linas secrets straining an already shaky marriage? But one of each couple is withholding something from their partner.
The locations one minute a chapter is set in London at Christmas time, pubs and parties, the next chapter Australia, stifling hot and family yuletide turkey dinners. Smalltown Craggy Rocks about to be put on the map but for all the wrong reasons!
Fragments of Linas past life are fleetingly thrust before the reader, leaving us to try and piece together what happened all those years ago. Why did Lina leave England? And just how far away will she have to go this time before she feels safe again?
* Characters *
Interestingly, the one character that develops the most in this book is the journalist, Larry. His is a character I didnt take to hes very career minded and will stop at nothing to get his story, to the detriment of everyone and everything else. I liked the way Barr told his side of things, his ego inflating as he becomes a familiar face around Craggy Rock. He is deeply unlikeable, making promises to Sophie he has no intention of keeping and hounding Lina and her family. Hes uncaring and selfish, and if that wasnt bad enough, Barr describes him as blotchy faced and sweaty in the glare of the Australian sun! Yuck.
Lina is very secretive, she slips in and out of an Australian accent to hide the fact shes British. Shes fiercely protective of her young son and unborn baby and is willing to do anything to keep them out of the unwelcome publicity of the small town.
* Overall *
Well I love travelling, and I have a love of Australia because my best friend lives there, so this is one book that appealed to me before Id even read the first page!
I wouldn't say that Emily Barr writes chick lit, having read her other two books, as they arent told in a fluffy, humorous way. I liked the way this book contained the two separate stories, set miles apart from one another and the slow build up of how they would eventually link up.
The reader really does understand Linas fear of living on borrowed time until shes found out and the reader almost hopes that Lina and Larry never meet.
So to the awarding of the stars. Im going to be mean and mark it down one. As Ive read Cuban Heels I felt the characters in that book were better explored. In Baggage one feels that we never really know Lina. In fact she starts off as the main character at the beginning and soon takes a back seat to Larry and Sophie further on in the book.
However this is to be recommended, especially if you have a love of all things foreign and also like a bit of mystery thrown in. An ideal book to take on holiday as its gripping and keeps you guessing throughout. It probably wont conclude how you expected, either!
* Other info *
RRP £6.99 (I got my copy from Ebay)
* About the author *
Emily Barr has written columns and travel pieces for the Observer and The Guardian for a number of years. Her first novel (Backpack) won the WH Smith New Talent Award 2002.
* Other books by Emily Barr *
Thanks for reading.