Blog Tour – December 2021 – The Newcomer – Laura Elizabeth Woollett

So curiouser and curiouser – two books in a row from the Southern hemisphere! Some years I’m lucky to have two books from there in a year (Craig Sisterson would not be impressed!) – so what are my thoughts on this second book; the first one – The Quiet People – being such a gem?

Well, it’s a very different book, to begin with. It’s set almost entirely on Fairfolk Island, an imaginary island, where people not from there (often Australians) are called “mainies” and the islanders pretty much stick together.

To this island arrives 28-year-old Paulina, and there’s no secrets on the cover that she is “the newcomer” of the title, and that she also becomes a murder victim on the usually quiet island (it’s based on the remote Norfolk Island, of which, in my ignorance, I had never heard, although the real – and fictional – island sounds incredibly beautiful!) On an island of 2000 people (roughly the size of the island I grew up – Mull, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides) a “mainie,” which is a bit of a derisory term, as attractive and outgoing as Paulina is easily noticed, particularly by the male half of the population.

So what is Paulina like?

She’s a party girl – a very heavy drinker, with a tendency to be loud and swear a lot. She has a history of eating disorders and self harm – a wee bit of a lost soul. She’s also noticed by men, as I mentioned, and doesn’t waste any time working around the available men – and the unavailable men.

But she’s a grafter – she’ll do any job she can, and she’s loyal to her friends, the main one of whom is Jesse. She’s up early every morning, no matter how late the night before went on, or how much she drank, power-walking around the island to work, or just to enjoy the incredible-sounding views (another similarity to Mull…!)

However, being without family on the island, she’s somewhat isolated. She’s close to her mother, speaking to her on the phone about subjects no-one I know speaks to their mother about! Despite her faults, I found her a hugely likeable character – very real, well-fleshed out, and the way she is treated by the highly sexist, patriarchal population of the island gets worse and worse. I really don’t want to give any more away on this part of the storyline, as I feel it’s an important one.

So is this a “whodunit,” then?

Not in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more a character study, and a study of an island community that’s somewhat backward, compared to the city she came from. Her way of dressing (the tight exercise clothing of sports bras teamed with short leggings) which are so ubiquitous in cities make her stand out on the island. Ultimately, the two clash, ending in her death.

Did this book impress crimeworm, then?

I absolutely adored it! Laura Elizabeth Woollett has a real talent for creating characters and places which are very realistic, and I absolutely romped through this book – something I’ve struggled to do since my head injury a couple of years ago. Paulina is a character I felt real empathy for – her mother and aunt too. Woollett’s an author whose career I’ll definitely be following, as well as investigating both her previous novel, and her short story collection. Just as long as you’re not put off by descriptions of graphic sex scenes – which I don’t see as at all gratuitous, but essential to illustrate Paulina’s treatment by the men of the island, which gets worse and worse. This is definitely a novel to investigate by an author who understands people and relationships intimately.

Don’t miss it!

With thanks to Scribe Books for inviting me on this blog tour, and for the ARC.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour!