Gabriella is one of those novels that won’t fit any classification. It is absolutely original. I’ve never read anything like it. Despite plenty of naked bodies on display (mostly Gabriella’s), I don’t think you could call it erotica. It’s not a thriller, and not a mystery. Fiction, yes. A slice of life, if that could ever be a genre.
The action takes place over one day, during a school cricket match, in the UK. Tongue-in-cheek and irreverent, the author takes the premise of social class and shapes it into the dominant element around which feelings, thoughts, battles and friendships are forged. Taken to extremes, the defining characteristics of upper classes versus the hoi-poloi are aired in public, in all their glory.
A word of warning: if you are easily offended, don’t read it. I was on the cusp. I almost didn’t want to, put it down, but then picked it up again. In the end I just gave up – or gave in – and went with it. For the uninitiated (or non-Brits), it would be hard to tell where reality stopped and fantasy began. In fact, both are everywhere, but the root of truth is there in every paragraph, on every page, well observed and funnily demonstrated.
So now comes the time I have to rate this novel. An honest, experienced reviewer is not supposed to allow their personal feelings influence ratings, but merely show the attributes that make up the whole in every book. I’ll try to be objective.
Descriptions? Perfect. I could see exactly where the oak tree and the chestnut tree and the pavilion were, and I formed a clear picture of Jim’s parents in their sun loungers as they sunned themselves alongside the pitch. The game itself I understood, though twice I had to ask my husband about specific cricket references. Even without knowing cricket intimately, you would still enjoy the story. It’s not about cricket. It’s about people. On a cricket match background.
Plot? Flawless. Dialogues. Perfect again. Characterization? Extreme, but a ten out of ten. If it weren’t for that grain of truth, you could almost accuse the author of using stock characters – as it is, it’s this extreme picture of class that makes the book so funny. Well done, Alan Hardy.
Did I enjoy the read? It made me laugh, it made me cringe, but it hooked me and kept me reading till the end, so I guess I would say I was entertained. In a very non-politically-correct way. This is not a book any self-respecting publisher would rush to put their name to. Pity, but political correctness is Britain’s middle name, and we all know how that shapes our lives. But it doesn’t matter, e-publishing is doing us a favour once again – we can choose our own heroes. For this novel’s quirkiness, its originality, and especially for his outrageous cheek in writing something so un-PC, Alan Hardy deserves five stars. Well worth the money.