Fiction Ed’s Book Review: “The First Time Lauren Pailing Died”

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

“The First Time Lauren Pailing Died” by Alyson Rudd is a super idea.

A time slip novel, its titular protagonist, Lauren, is a young teenage girl who we come to realise occasionally sees glimpses of herself, her home, her family, but in a parallel dimension.

She has her mum, Vera, and then her “other mum”, and the description of how shards of light separate the two is well written.

Oh, that I could say that about the rest of this book . . .

By page 5, I’d already cringed

It’s a debut novel, by a “Times” sports writer. Plus, my copy was an uncorrected book proof, which we commonly receive in advance of publication so that we might review upcoming titles.

However, for me an uncorrected book proof might excuse typos. Not basic structural problems and use of language.

By page 5 I’d already cringed at a “was sat”. “Was sat” and “was stood” occur frequently thereafter.

Yes, I know it’s the way some people speak, but that doesn’t make it correct written English any more than “fink” and “nuffink” are.

Acceptable in dialogue maybe, but this was in narrative.

Another flaw that made me discard this book 50 pages in is the mixed viewpoint.

The chapters are helpfully titled “Vera”, “Lauren”, “Bob”, etc., signalling, to me, that we switch point of view to that character for that chapter. Logical, no?

Well, certainly we start in young Laura’s POV, but we hop in and out of Vera’s — and remember we have more than one Vera. We’re also in Bob’s, Lauren’s dad’s, thoughts; we even hop into the thoughts of minor characters we meet along the way. We’re head-hopping all over the place no matter whose chapter it is. It’s infuriating.

It races, confuses — I was all at sea over Bob’s boss Peter Stanning, in both dimensions. Summing up, because I could go on and on, this is a super idea really badly executed.

Not to mince my words, it’s a muddled mess.

In the acknowledgements, Alyson Rudd thanks her excellent editor. Hmmm . . .

“The First Time Lauren Pailing Died” by Alyson Rudd is out now from Harper Collins, in hardback, audio and e-book.

Read more of the team’s book reviews here.

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.