Before I was a writer, I was a reader, avid and rabid. However, as I’ve grown older and time becomes a precious commodity, I’ve become particular about what I feed my head. The criteria for what constitutes an exceptional reading experience for me has been narrowed down to two very important components that never fail to compel me to crack the spine of any novel: 1. A setting that is new and foreign and which teaches me about a different cultural and/or social perspective. 2. Characters that allow me to be an emotional chameleon, inhabiting their interior life for the duration of the story. Last week I read a novel that delivered brilliantly on both counts: Walking On Chalk by Kiersty Boon, a poet and novelist from Brighton England. In conjunction with her literary pursuits, she is also well known locally as a Poet Busker, serving a feast for your ears and soul with open mic performances of her poetry.
Her artistic range is impressive, her writing versatile, sassy and savvy. She is a creative maverick who has taken what at first seems like a traditional love story and sculpted it into something new and relevent. Walking on Chalk is an unconventional and honest account of what love really is and what it could be. It lays bare the dynamics at play between a man and woman showing how we sometimes get it right by avoiding the beaten path altogether; veering instead into unfamiliar emotional territory.
The story begins with the accidental meeting on the street between two people: Kate, a thirty something woman at loose ends in her life who is trying to get her bearings and a sense of emotional direction and Ern, a mysterious street artist who produces magnificent chalk drawings on the walkway across from the cafe Kate frequents. Over time Kate and Ern become overwhelmed by the magnetic pull between them, eventually culminating in a passionate love affair. However, there is a twist, Ern harbours a deep dark secret from his past that alters the course of both their lives, changing them forever in ways they could never have imagined. It’s a story about the healing and trans formative power of love and forgiveness. It is about giving and letting go, and learning that not everything is as it seems.
Walking on Chalk is not just a love story, it is also a mystery with impeccable pacing that ensures a palpable feeling of suspense right to the very last page. In addition, the environs of Brighton are alive and vibrant, the inhabitants real, inviting you into the story and their world with each personality trait and quirk. I’ve never read a book quite like this, it is that special. The conclusion is a bit of a teaser in that it leaves the reader wondering if there will be a sequel. This reader certainly hopes so as I’m dying to know what happens to Kate and Ern, two unforgettable characters who live on long after you close the pages of this book.
In my opinion, Kiersty Boon is the heir apparent to Maeve Binchy and deserves to be read just as widely. She has that special ability to metamorphose your reality into one of her own creation. Drop by her blog, listen to her poetry readings, purchase her books and/or CD’s and let her magic turn your week into something amazing.
I would also suggest a fantastic companion piece to Walking on Chalk: The Poet Busker, a volume of poetry and prose that invites you into Kiersty’s world and soul.
Her verse is biting and cheeky with a raw understanding that can only be gleaned from naked observation both outward and inward. But it is also vivacious and filled with sounds that wind deliciously around your spirit. As a poet, I respect her talent to weave words into images and emotions into truths. Not an easy feat for any bard but she does it with alacrity and precision.