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Alarm Girl

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When 11-year-old Indigo and her older brother Robin arrive in South Africa to stay with their father, they find a luxury lifestyle that is a world away from their modest existence back in England. But Indigo is uneasy in the foreign landscape and confused by the family’s silence surrounding her mother’s recent death. Unable to find solace in either new or old faces, she be When 11-year-old Indigo and her older brother Robin arrive in South Africa to stay with their father, they find a luxury lifestyle that is a world away from their modest existence back in England. But Indigo is uneasy in the foreign landscape and confused by the family’s silence surrounding her mother’s recent death. Unable to find solace in either new or old faces, she begins to harbour violent suspicions in place of the truth. Steeped in the dry heat of a South African summer, this keen and touching debut seamlessly interweaves the voices of Indigo and her mother, and beautifully captures the human desire to belong: in a family, in a country, in your own skin.


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When 11-year-old Indigo and her older brother Robin arrive in South Africa to stay with their father, they find a luxury lifestyle that is a world away from their modest existence back in England. But Indigo is uneasy in the foreign landscape and confused by the family’s silence surrounding her mother’s recent death. Unable to find solace in either new or old faces, she be When 11-year-old Indigo and her older brother Robin arrive in South Africa to stay with their father, they find a luxury lifestyle that is a world away from their modest existence back in England. But Indigo is uneasy in the foreign landscape and confused by the family’s silence surrounding her mother’s recent death. Unable to find solace in either new or old faces, she begins to harbour violent suspicions in place of the truth. Steeped in the dry heat of a South African summer, this keen and touching debut seamlessly interweaves the voices of Indigo and her mother, and beautifully captures the human desire to belong: in a family, in a country, in your own skin.

30 review for Alarm Girl

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aditi

    ‘Being in Africa is like being on a different planet, not just a different country,’ ---Indigo, Alarm Girl Hannah Vincent, an English writer's debut book, Alarm Girl is not only an emotional roller coaster ride but also a poignant tale which instantly grips you with the pain and sorrow seen through the young eyes of Indigo. Synopsis: For 11-year old Indigo and her older brother, Robin being in South Africa is more like being on whole new different planet. After their mother's sudden death, Indig ‘Being in Africa is like being on a different planet, not just a different country,’ ---Indigo, Alarm Girl Hannah Vincent, an English writer's debut book, Alarm Girl is not only an emotional roller coaster ride but also a poignant tale which instantly grips you with the pain and sorrow seen through the young eyes of Indigo. Synopsis: For 11-year old Indigo and her older brother, Robin being in South Africa is more like being on whole new different planet. After their mother's sudden death, Indigo and Robin are more like orphaned even though they are survived by their father who happens to live in South Africa for his tourism business. Living with their maternal grandparents in England was quite suitable for Indigo and Robin, but living with their father over the Christmas break in a different country sounds difficult for both of them. Moreover, their father looks quite posh and has kept his mouth shut with the mystery behind his wife's sudden death, which Indigo finds it hard and suspicious of his father's intentions. Not recognizing her own father is fine for Indigo, but not getting the proper answers behind her mother's mysterious death bothers her the most. Indigo finds solace in her father's pet, Tonyhog- which is a domesticated bush pig. And together with Zami, who used to work in their garden, Indigo tends the pig with care and love and eventually a sweet, innocent friendship blossomed between them. Alarm Girl is bound to take you on a roll from England's cold and sad life to South Africa's hopefulness and new beginnings. We not only learn about Indigo's life, but also that of her mother Karen's life. Indigo's tale is infused with that of her mother, Karen's story- along with Indigo, we too are in dark about her mother’s sudden demise and as we grow with Karen, we can see the light behind this unraveling mystery. Karen's life is portrayed from her childhood to getting married to giving birth to Indigo. So yes, there are two protagonists in Hannah Vincent's story. In Indigo's narrative, we can see how she is adjusting with pre-adolescence things in her life, and also how she handles the adult things with her wisdom. And Karen's narrative was quite dark with too many tensions. To be honest, in the beginning, the narration of both the protagonists left us confused and the focus often shifted from one protagonist to another without giving the readers any time to adjust with the sudden shift of the storyline. But eventually, the author got hold of her narration and in the end, I can say, that the narration turned out to be completely perfect. South Africa- Oh well! What can I say about the background! No one could have captured South Africa so evocatively with just using words. I was immediately transported to the enchanting and exotic lands of South Africa while I was reading the book. With the vivid descriptions of myriad of colors to the sensory descriptions to its glorious cultural aspect, everything felt perfectly well with the storyline. And also even some amount of racism is also portrayed by the author, which is not only acute but also arresting. It's a must read book if you want to experience South Africa with just your eyes and mind. You cannot miss out this coming-of-age story that will only arrest your mind and soul with intrigue and compassion seen through the eyes of an 11-year old girl. Courtesy: Thanks to Trip Fiction for the review copy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tripfiction

    A novella set in South Africa (“Africa Time”) Once in a while a little gem of a book comes across our path. And Alarm Girl is one such gem. A short and cracking read. Indigo and Robin are two children whose mum, Karen, has died, and they are currently living with their maternal grandparents in the UK. Dad has relocated to South Africa and this is the story of the first trip the two children undertake to visit him in his new home at Christmas. It is written through the eyes of 11 year old Indigo, w A novella set in South Africa (“Africa Time”) Once in a while a little gem of a book comes across our path. And Alarm Girl is one such gem. A short and cracking read. Indigo and Robin are two children whose mum, Karen, has died, and they are currently living with their maternal grandparents in the UK. Dad has relocated to South Africa and this is the story of the first trip the two children undertake to visit him in his new home at Christmas. It is written through the eyes of 11 year old Indigo, who prowls around the house and grounds, just like the lions in the bush, observing and ingesting what she experiences. “Africa Time” is the slow speed at which daily life unfolds, a stark contrast to life back in the UK. She slides from her all encompassing South African experience, to reminiscing in her mind with mum about their life before her death. This is a curious construction for a book but once the flow settles it is very easy to appreciate the quality of the prose and the rhythm of the story as it builds. There are gentle clues about Mum’s fragile health as the story builds to expounding the reasons behind her death, and the author finds just the right line between what the child in her narrative is taking on board, and what the adult pressures on the parental couple have been. She also creatively develops the backstory of the early relationship of Indigo’s parents, which cradles this vignette of their power-packed, south african visit. Indigo even toys with the possibility that her mum may somehow have been killed by her dad, brought into sharp relief by the harsh realities of the South African environment around her – the Alarm Girl of the title is her personal emergency alarm that she has to keep with her, even in the gated environs of her dad’s luxury dwelling. As she observes the people who work for her dad, and explores the Bush, and comes face to face with brutal poverty, her imagination is fired by crawling thoughts. And as her Dad now seems to be in a relationship with with Beautiful, his new girlfriend, Indigo simply cannot shake off the feeling of mistrust. The tensions and social divide between black and white are acutely portrayed, as are her forays beyond the closed gates and out into wilderness encounters and township hardship. One of her pleasures in her new environment is the company of Tonyhog, a domesticated bushpig that lives on the compound and trails around. Together with Zami, who works around the house and garden, they tend the pig and with their care of him, a friendship between two young people – from two vastly different backgrounds – begins to build. The author has a great gift of finding the voice of an 11 year old girl and of setting this condensed glimpse of one family in the dry heat of South Africa. A true achievement.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura Wilkinson

    I adored this delicate, nuanced novel. It made me laugh and cry. Hannah Vincent captures the voice of eleven-year-old Indigo, her confusion, pain and fear, without ever resorting to schmaltz. The landscape and heat of South Africa is beautifully conjured, as is the stultifying small town community, which is home to Indy and her late mother, Karen, and the sensitivity in the description of the descent of the black dog of depression is impressive also. Alarm Girl has particular resonance for me be I adored this delicate, nuanced novel. It made me laugh and cry. Hannah Vincent captures the voice of eleven-year-old Indigo, her confusion, pain and fear, without ever resorting to schmaltz. The landscape and heat of South Africa is beautifully conjured, as is the stultifying small town community, which is home to Indy and her late mother, Karen, and the sensitivity in the description of the descent of the black dog of depression is impressive also. Alarm Girl has particular resonance for me because my father died when I was a child (though younger than Indy) and my own family struggled with how to explain. The complexity of the emotions involved is perfectly evoked. No mean feat. Do buy and read this wonderful novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ann Rawson

    A moving and powerful story about a young girl coming to terms with her mother's recent death. The tensions within the family - between Indigo and her brother, her grandparents and their son in law are so real you can touch them, and are echoed in the gulf between cosy English suburbia and the South African landscape of her father's new home. I loved this novel, for the clear, spare prose and the perfectly balanced narrative strands, and the evocation of a different place. But most of all I love A moving and powerful story about a young girl coming to terms with her mother's recent death. The tensions within the family - between Indigo and her brother, her grandparents and their son in law are so real you can touch them, and are echoed in the gulf between cosy English suburbia and the South African landscape of her father's new home. I loved this novel, for the clear, spare prose and the perfectly balanced narrative strands, and the evocation of a different place. But most of all I loved the haunting story of a grieving and confused young girl. I cried, but even though there is a lot of darkness in the novel, there is also love and hope. I was fortunate to have Hannah as my Open University Creative Writing tutor.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    There are stories that are fast-paced, exciting and thrilling. There are stories that are subtle, descriptive and beautiful. There is a place for both of these, but sometimes the slower, more complex and deliciously paced story is the order of the day. Alarm Girl is exactly that; a story narrated by a child who will slowly but surely creep into your head and she's very difficult to shake off. Indigo and her brother Robin have travelled to South Africa. They are going to stay with their father who There are stories that are fast-paced, exciting and thrilling. There are stories that are subtle, descriptive and beautiful. There is a place for both of these, but sometimes the slower, more complex and deliciously paced story is the order of the day. Alarm Girl is exactly that; a story narrated by a child who will slowly but surely creep into your head and she's very difficult to shake off. Indigo and her brother Robin have travelled to South Africa. They are going to stay with their father who is trying to establish a travel business. Their mother has recently died and they've been staying with their maternal grandparents. Nobody has spoken to Indigo about her mother's death. Her brother thinks she's just a stupid girl, her grandparents are overly-protective and grieving themselves and her father seems to have changed into a different person completely. Indigo finds South Africa quite strange and just a little frightening. The heat, the wild animals, the language. It feels unsafe and dangerous, it's not home. She doesn't want to be there. Hannah Vincent has taken a big risk by narrating her debut novel in the voice of a young child, but it's a risk that she has proved that she is well qualified to take as her characterisation of Indigo is perfect. She has created a little girl who is innocent, vulnerable and confused, but also perfectly believable. Indigo's childish curiosity, along with her confusion about the death of her mother are blended so elegantly together. Layered between Indigo's narration is the story of her late mother Karen. The reader learns about Karen's life before her children, her marriage, motherhood and ultimately, her death. This insight into Indigo's heritage is essential, and adds another dimension the story. The South African setting is exquisite, and the contrast between the wealthy neighbourhood and the slum-like dwellings is stark and pulls no punches and hides nothing. I am incredibly impressed by this fabulous little novel. It's short, but deals with so many issues, and the story unravels slowly but quite perfectly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Rouillard

    A darkly compelling coming-of-age story set in South Africa, 'Alarm Girl' is a subtle and yet powerful novel. The undercurrents of tension and danger are well evoked and sustained throughout the book. The relationships simmer with unspoken conversations but the most glaring omission is the question of how and why Indigo’s mother died. In eleven-year-old Indigo’s narrative the author captures the awkwardness of pre-adolescence as well as Indigo’s dawning comprehension of adult things, and in her A darkly compelling coming-of-age story set in South Africa, 'Alarm Girl' is a subtle and yet powerful novel. The undercurrents of tension and danger are well evoked and sustained throughout the book. The relationships simmer with unspoken conversations but the most glaring omission is the question of how and why Indigo’s mother died. In eleven-year-old Indigo’s narrative the author captures the awkwardness of pre-adolescence as well as Indigo’s dawning comprehension of adult things, and in her mother Karen’s narrative she summons a darkness that lurks and threatens to overwhelm... Read my full review on the Writers' Hub: http://www.writershub.co.uk/reviews-p...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne Carey

    Interesting read. i wouldn't have bought this to read if I hadn't received it through Good Reads. it was great to be introduced to a new author. It did take some time to get into and I found the writing style rather basic at times - but then she was giving voice to a child so that may have been the purpose. Interesting read. i wouldn't have bought this to read if I hadn't received it through Good Reads. it was great to be introduced to a new author. It did take some time to get into and I found the writing style rather basic at times - but then she was giving voice to a child so that may have been the purpose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elyse

    Saw this on a best of 2014 list. What a short, excellent read. The sparse writing style fit the characters and the subject matter perfectly. Not necessarily the cheeriest works of fiction, but one of the more evocative pieces I've read in awhile. Saw this on a best of 2014 list. What a short, excellent read. The sparse writing style fit the characters and the subject matter perfectly. Not necessarily the cheeriest works of fiction, but one of the more evocative pieces I've read in awhile.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Terrie

    Told from the perspective of a young girl as she and her older brother visit their father in Africa. The story fills in backwards to why the kids are living with and being raised by their grandparents in England. It's well written, a quick read, full of little girl insights. Recommended. Told from the perspective of a young girl as she and her older brother visit their father in Africa. The story fills in backwards to why the kids are living with and being raised by their grandparents in England. It's well written, a quick read, full of little girl insights. Recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is a short book, fast read. took me a bit to get used to the writing style but once I did it moved fast. I felt that the author did an amazing job at describing the mother's mental illness. This is a short book, fast read. took me a bit to get used to the writing style but once I did it moved fast. I felt that the author did an amazing job at describing the mother's mental illness.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Sillitoe

    I found the narration difficult at first, but it was effective.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Larissa Cook

    This book started off a little slow for me but I ended up falling in love with it. I absolutely loved the writing. So unique. Incredibly sad; incredibly good.

  13. 5 out of 5

    BookWorm1567

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Beautiful short read, yet devastatingly sad. My heart breaks for Indigo whose story is told so poignantly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patricia M Osborne

    A great read. Loved the 11 year old Indigo child narrator. Highly recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cat {Wild Night In}

    I one a copy of this book through First Read. Really enjoyed it. A review will follow on the 7th August, when it's released. I one a copy of this book through First Read. Really enjoyed it. A review will follow on the 7th August, when it's released.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nina de la Mer

    Review to follow.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Araminta Hall

    Really moving account of a girl trying to come to terms with her mother's death and the story she concocts around this. Also very vivid sense of South African setting. Really moving account of a girl trying to come to terms with her mother's death and the story she concocts around this. Also very vivid sense of South African setting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    A little bit hard to decipher initially, though as the story progresses the narrator's voice becomes easier to understand. Some really excellent turns of phrase in this story. Content warning: suicide A little bit hard to decipher initially, though as the story progresses the narrator's voice becomes easier to understand. Some really excellent turns of phrase in this story. Content warning: suicide

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Meh. 2.5⭐️ I didn't love the writing style... I understand that the author was giving voice to a child in her technique, but overall it was confusing and poorly executed Meh. 2.5⭐️ I didn't love the writing style... I understand that the author was giving voice to a child in her technique, but overall it was confusing and poorly executed

  20. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    I understand the choice to leave this short book relatively unstructured but it was confusing. I spent the majority of the time flipping back to figure out what I just read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt Hunt

    Picked up randomly in the library using my highly selective criteria (slim, no pastel colours, female author decent font). A lovely book, subtle, poignant, delicate. First person, almost brusque narration built up a deep emotional world. 5*s.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    Disturbing novel about mental health. It was difficult to read as the narrator would switch without any warning, and therefore I often wondered who was "speaking". An important message, but a very depressing tale. Disturbing novel about mental health. It was difficult to read as the narrator would switch without any warning, and therefore I often wondered who was "speaking". An important message, but a very depressing tale.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Liz Hokanson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julie Reinhart

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Conrad

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Knutos

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sian

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen

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