- Book: The Diary
- Location: Hitchin
- Author: Vikki Patis
“..stop digging, you don’t know what you might unearth…”
Lauren Winters is now well settled in Cornwall, in a good relationship, together with their cat Kiana. She is however drawn to return to Hitchin for a short while. This is where she grew up, went to school and where her father continues to live.
A memorial service is taking place at the school she attended, for Hannah White, who was the daughter of her father’s new partner, Tracy. It is 10 years since she died. The two girls grew up together in their teenage years but Hannah, the stunning step sister, funny, sharp and ahead of her years, is now dead. Was she, however, really the wonderful young woman or has there been some assiduous air brushing?
Going back is hard for Lauren, all those teenage memories, those groups, angsts and dynamics that are as fresh today as they were then. There is the mystery of Hannah’s diary and as the memorial approaches, there is clearly someone trying to intimidate and frighten – threatening texts suddenly appear on Lauren’s phone, and she is not the only one who is receiving these unwanted missives. Scrawled messages, items posted through the letterbox… almost as though they are coming from Hannah herself. There are clearly secrets that have been festering.
The author tackles many serious issues that can be part of a teenager’s world – bullying, parental harm, blended families, abuse, suicide, rape and more. There is also a photo that impacted on Lauren a great deal and she is now indeed forced to confront what happened all those years ago.
The book is divided between Now and Then. The author has an easy-to-read writing style and clearly relishes writing descriptive passages. She is keen to establish the era of the “Then” chapters, mainly through musical references (however, I don’t think it would have been feasible to take a selfie on an old digital camera as described in the narrative).
The characters pass through the pages, many former pupils at the school are now, of course, much older but perhaps not so much wiser. A little more fleshing out of the people might have made the story a little more immersive. A few twists and turns do stretch credibility but it is nevertheless a competent debut.
The setting for the book is Hitchin, 30 miles or so north of London, but in terms of TripFiction and literary wanderlust there are few references to locale.“Hitchin always was a strange town a mix of affluent and disadvantaged families”.