Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Bohemia by Veronika Carnaby


When Veronika Carnaby got in touch with me to ask if I'd like to read her book, I took a look at the description and decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I love finding different genres to read, and a book about the Beat Generation was certainly a new experience for me.

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Bohemia was described by Veronika as:

Influenced by the works of Beat Generation authors and great poets, the story takes place during 1960 and chronicles a group of bohemian twenty-somethings who defy the "ideals" of a mid-twentieth century society to seek creative fulfillment. On a deeper level, it portrays the creative path that artists of all mediums tread, all the while depicting the challenges faced by youth in the '60s. Moreover, the book has also gained support from legendary jazz musician and composer, Archie Shepp, who has contributed some brief words to it.

Now - I'm not familiar with the world of jazz at all, so I had to google Archie Shepp.  I'm actually none the wiser having googled him, apologies Mr. Shepp. I didn't have to google the Beat Generation - I'm sure there will be comparisions drawn between Bohemia and Jack Kerouac's On The Road - Kerouac being one of the original generation of  bohemians and a big part of the movement in the 50's & 60's.

The Beat Generation is something that's worth a google, if you've never heard of it - it was full of fascinating characters (also, the term Hipster? Totally a Beat Generation word). Bohemia is told from the perspective of one of those characters - Valerie Freed, who aches for something more than a 9-to-5, stifled existence in the town she grew up in. With her best friend Emm, and two free-spirited lads (Jimmy and Lester), Valerie sets off on a journey that changes her life in several ways.

The writing is beautiful. Veronika manages to draw us in to this magical, creative, eccentric little community of musicians, writers, dancers and all-round like-minded people on a mission to do exactly what they want to do, and makes us feel as if we are right there with Valerie. I was aching for her to succeed, for her to accomplish something. The people she meets on her travels are fascinating, each one leaving their own little mark on Val, and I felt a little sense of loss every time one of them moved on. It's actually hard to believe that Valerie herself hasn't written the book.

It's not a fast-paced rip-roaring thriller by any means, nor is it a book that I found easy to get into. I had to give it a couple of tries (I think in all honesty this was because it's one of the only e-books I've read, I find it very odd not to have the paper book) and I'd definitely love to tackle it again in a hard copy to give different chapters the attention they deserve.  The ones in particular about The Ladybug Club were so descriptive and colourful - Veronika has a serious flair for making a particular place as much of a main character as any of the human ones. This book is - it's a journey, an insight, an experience. I can't believe this is only Veronika's first novel, nor can I believe this isn't a real first-hand account of life in 60's Bohemia.

I'm glad I stuck it out, because I won't forget Bohemia for a long time.

Also, Roxford - very cool cat.

Veronika has a blog, which you can check out HERE.