Reviewer: Gill Chedgey 

Publisher: Tinder Press    3rd February 2022

ISBN: 978-1472259455       HB

I love Rachel Elliott’s books. I love the way her stories are populated by characters who don’t quite seem to neatly fit into the mainstream. People who are different without intending to be, people who are damaged in some way and find themselves on the periphery of life. Yet Ms. Elliott weaves tales that allow them to be fulfilled and accepted. And although their journeys aren’t easy or straightforward, ultimately, the novels are uplifting.

Flamingo continues that tradition but it also shows a writer developing in skill and style. It seemed to me that the prose of Flamingo is pared down, succinct and pithy, shorter sentences with a punch and a depth of emotion wherever they are needed.

‘And now he has lost the capacity to speak. Tenderness is all that remains.’

‘’You’re emotionally stunted, Eve says. That’s not very nice, Sherry says.’

I remember with Rachel Elliott’s previous two books finding loads of quotable maxims. I’ll confine myself to just the one here as it seems to relate my previous observations about her prose style.

‘All sentences are a kind of music. They can be sung and heard in boundless ways.’

So what’s the book about? It’s about two families and three flamingos. It’s about love in its myriad forms. It’s a story of how things endure no matter how seemingly low a person can fall. It’s set in the past and it’s set in the present and it offers hope for a future. It’s about the impact one person can have on another. It’s about acceptance. Eve is a single mother raising her son Daniel. They move to  Abigail Gardens, next door, for a while, to Sherry and Leslie who are raising their two daughters, (and three flamingos. In the garden. Not real flamingos..The flamingos are symbolic. Take what you know of them and apply that to life). We see the lives of these people unfolding in their different, disparate ways and how they all engage and interact with each other.

With canny perception Ms Elliot has created these characters and homed in on their fundamental needs. They weave in and out of life trying to fulfil and be fulfilled regardless of the challenges involved. And you can come away from a reading a story such as this not feeling quite so bad about yourself as you did before you began the book.

And I guarantee that you will never listen to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is’ in quite the same way.