Book Review – Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith
I loved everything about this novel. From its contents page that starts at ‘alpha’ and finishes at ‘zulu’, from its brief first chapter that introduces the reader to its title characters, Whisky and Charlie, and then informs us that one of those characters is in a coma, to its final page of acknowledgements where the author thanks her fellow writers and her family.
This is Perth based writer Annabel Smith’s second novel and the first that I’ve read. I am usually an idiosyncratic and dyslexic reader, hopping around in a book, reading pages out of sequence and often reading three books simultaneously. I couldn’t do that with Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. I had to read it chapter by controlled chapter, wondering what delights lay ahead in chapters titled ‘yankee’ and ‘quebec’ and trusting that the author would provide that delight.
The episodic nature of the story did not worry me because I cared as much for the bumbling and frustrating Charlie as I did for his alpha twin Whisky and desperately wanted him to wake up from his coma and needle Charlie again. ‘William was put out that his name wasn’t part of the phonetic alphabet. To compensate he started calling himself Whisky. Their father, who they had always called Dad, became Papa (p 23).’
Charlie’s relationship with his comatose brother isn’t his only problem. His beautiful girlfriend Juliet is about to walk out on him and even his best friend Marco thinks Charlie needs to mend his ways. But Charlie is so hard done by, having lived in the shadow of his successful, popular older brother all his life, that surely there’s nothing he can do to change the inevitable. Or can he? His father reminds him that he hasn’t exactly ‘been the world’s best brother,’ prompting Charlie to swear, then contemplate, very slowly, the nature of his relationships.
The women are also beautifully drawn. There’s Charlie’s Aunt Audrey who starts everything by giving walkie talkies to the twins before moving to Australia. There’s his mother Elaine whose past comes to haunt her in the chapter titled ‘mike.’ There’s also Rosa, Whisky’s wife, and Juliet, who knows both brothers intimately. And I loved the brief sketch of Charlie’s first girlfriend, the flinty Kristy whose ways were ‘always better, neater and more efficient than any method Charlie might use. Kristy never said this explicitly but she made it clear by the way she scrutinised Charlie at certain tasks and then silently corrected his mistakes when he had finished (pp 79-80).’
This is an elegant and satisfying book and I recommend it highly.
This review counts towards my total for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith.
Publisher: Fremantle Press.
Oh good on you for doing this challenge! It’s such an excellent thing to do. And it’s a most generous and intriguing review. I shall have to add the book to my reading list.
Thank you Liana. I’m a bit slow with the reading, but I’d like to do at least 6 this year. This is my second one for the year.
A fabulous book—and a fabulous review, Rashida 🙂
Thank you Amanda, and it was such a joy to read it too.
Thanks for such a lovely review Rashida. I’m also doing the AWW Challenge 🙂
Oh, wow, Annabel! You’re very welcome, but I really need to thank you for writing such a great book…thank you! Instant author envy happening here:-) And I have no idea why Richard R thought Charlie was a dickhead…Charlie’s flawed bumblings so make me want to meet him (and shake him!) and sadly my husband thinks I’m like Kristy. Apparently I scrutinise him carefully in the kitchen, then wipe up after him! See what you’ve done? We’re still having conversations about your book.
Haha, I’m sorry to say that aspect of Kristy’s personality may have been more than a little autobiographical – so you’re not alone Rashida!
A wonderful review, Rashida. It’s now on my must-read list. I’m feeling very guilty that I’m not doing the challenge. I guess it’s not too late to sign-up…
Thanks Louise. I found it was an excellent way of deviating from the pile of books I knew I ‘had’ to read. I’ve still got that big pile from the Writers Festival waiting. Looking forward to Iris’s book next, then Natasha Lester, and Amanda’s Elemental…not enough hours in a day! Loved your story too, by the way, can relate to it on many levels, including once, having the urge to strangle a little boy who told my daughter in Year 1 that she was ‘yucky and brown,’ and to slap the face of the teacher who told me to be grateful there were no Aboriginal children in the school. I took a deep breath and wrote about it!
It’s never too late! I signed on a few months into last year.
[…] reviewed Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, including Emily Paull, Kristen Levitzke, Louise Allan and Rashida Murphy. I’m especially grateful to Lisa Hill of ANZ Lit Lovers who included WCF on her list […]
[…] reviewed Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, including Emily Paull, Kristen Levitzke, Louise Allan and Rashida Murphy. I’m especially grateful to Lisa Hill of ANZ Lit Lovers who included WCF on her list of favourite […]