The Drowning of Arthur Braxton – Caroline Smailes.
This isn’t the weirdest book I’ve ever read, but it is certainly unique and that is why I am telling all of you that you have to go and read it!
An urban fairy tale from the acclaimed author of 99 Reasons Why.
Arthur Braxton runs away from school.
He hides out in an abandoned building, an old Edwardian bathhouse.
He discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool.
From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is an unflinching account of the pain and trauma of adolescence and of how first love can transform the most unhappy of lives into something miraculous. It is a dark and brooding modern fairy tale from one of our most gifted writers.
Also, the author totally favourited my tweet about this book without me even having to mention her or anything. So, there’s that. Not that that made me want to write this review or anything. I’m not complete trash. (I am.)
So, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, let me tell you a story about my search for this book, how I finally got to read it and what I thought of it. Also the circumstances in which I read it were pretty interesting too. Basically, a lot of this is going to be word vomit, bare with. I first heard of this book when perusing some of my fave blogs, several book bloggers I read regularly had picked this up, all but one of them raved about it, all of them said it was different than anything else they had read, naturally I was intrigued. But what intrigued me even more was the fact that I couldn’t find this book anywhere. I went to Waterstones in Bath, Bristol and Wells. That’s three different counties. None of them stocked it, but they could if I wanted to pay over a tenner for it. I’m a cheap skate, aint nobody got funds for that. I searched online, again a few places had it but with hefty price tags. I thought to myself, Arthur Braxton must be a wiley so and so, everyone says how good it is and yet, it is no where to be found.
About a year or so later, Luke Cutforth (he’s a YouTuber in case you didn’t know) announced that he was going to be making the feature film version of the Drowning of Arthur Braxton and started up a kickstarter to get the funds to actually make the thing. Suddenly this book was everywhere. Thanks Luke Cutforth! I eventually, after a year of searching, found it on the kindle store for a whole 99p. But now having read it, I probably would have spent the tenner and thought it was worth it. I mentioned it in fact in my last library haul. Now comes the weird circumstances in which I found myself reading it, I got picked for jury service (I might write a blog about the experience – but of course, not the trials and or the other jurors, because I don’t fancy going to prison), for those that don’t know, jury service involves a lot of sitting around doing nothing. Naturally, I read a tonne of books, Arthur Braxton I managed in one four hour sitting waiting to be selected for a trial. Dear God it was glorious. Mostly because the opening of Arthur’s introduction goes like this: “Not only do I have a boner, but I’m running through the yard with my pants around my arse and its raining on my cock.” Or words to that effect.
You have never felt anxiety if you’ve never had to shield your kindle from hundreds of other jurors whilst reading that sentence. Honestly, how could you not fall a bit in love with a story where your titular character is introduced in those circumstances?
Anyway, that’s enough about me, let’s talk about this book. So, I said at the beginning of this (which literally feels about a million years ago) that this wasn’t the weirdest book that I’ve ever read, but that it was still pretty unique, I will warn you, this isn’t your regular old teen read. This is a story told by several different characters surrounding an old swimming bath which was believed to have magical powers. Our main two narrators are the titular Arthur Braxton (though he doesn’t show up until a little way in) and Delphina (who shows up even later), there is also my favourite character of the lot, Laurel, who’s story broke my heart a little. The blurb refers to this book as an urban fairytale and I think that sums it up pretty accurately, this is a story ground in mythology, but set, pretty much in modern day Wales, with modern day happenings and modern day people that happen to coexist alongside this strange, magical world surrounding the bathhouse known as the Oracle. There are several narrators, each of whom are around the same age when telling their version of events and I felt that each of them had their own unique voice and their own way of speaking. Laurel and Arthur both had a casual colloquial way of talking, Arthur’s was much cruder, granted, but I did feel like I was sat down opposite a teenager I vaguely knew being told about their experiences with the Oracle. I noticed a couple of reviews criticised the author’s use of slang, that they didn’t like Laurel and Arthur saying ‘probs’ instead of probably and things like that and yeah, at first I was a bit like God, how annoying, until I realised that at times I say probs, maybs and IRL and the worse thing is, they’ve become so ingrained in my vocabulary that half the time it’s not even ironic use any more. I did say I was trash at the beginning of this post, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because of that, I got over my literary snobbishness fairly quickly. Whilst I am a writer, I love words, I love being articulate and I love language being used properly, I also love the idea of slang and how individuals use certain phrases and tailor words to their own style. All that stuff fascinates me, so that was one thing I really loved about the Drowning of Arthur Braxton. It felt real, even though this is obviously a work of fantasy.
I like to mention trigger warnings when I write reviews, because honestly, though I loved this book, I wouldn’t want to put anyone through any unnecessary trauma, while this is a fairy tale of sorts, there are a lot of very real, very horrible things that happen in this book. There is child neglect, there is divorce, there is rape, there is bullying, there is mental health issues, there is suicide. If any of these things are triggering for you, I won’t be at all offended if you decide to leave Arthur Braxton, if they’re not and you’re, like I was a year ago, intrigued as to how a modern day fairy tale encompasses all those things while introducing a character talking about his genitals being rained on, then by all means pick this up. It is weird, it is addictive, it is probably the most crude thing you’ll pick up, but it is also funny, it has a lot of heart and it is so well written, you’ll soon forget about the slang and the complete randomness of the Oracle bathhouse.
All you really need to know is that I enjoyed this so much I am giving it the Nick Fury Seal of Approval and you know when you see the Nick Fury Seal that this was a damn good book. I’m sure now that the film version has been funded that this book will see a bit of a revival in terms of popularity and when the film finally gets made I think I’ll be one of the first people in queue to see how exactly they’re able to transfer it onto the big screen.
To find out more about what’s happening with the film you can click here to go see Luke’s video!
In the mean time, head to the book store of your choice and see if you can find this!