erasing clouds

Book Review: Nick Brooks' My Name Is Denise Forrester

by anna battista

Denise Forrester is a young troublesome and solitary girl. She has got long dark brown hair and pale skin, she only eats bread, potato derivatives and Nutella, and she is loved by stray cats which leave at her door bits and pieces of rubbish and dead animals. At school they call her “witch”, but she doesn’t seem to be too bothered about it. When feeling lonely, Denise can always take comfort and refuge in Eulalia, a landscape made of papier-mâché that she has created in her bedroom.

Denise lives in a Glasgow tenement with her younger sister Alison. Their grandmother takes care of both of them, their grandfather has died from asbestosis (but Denise and her sister keep in touch with him by using Morse code), their mum is constantly depressed and their policeman father just doesn’t seem to be able to cope with them.

The plot of My Name is Denise Forrester by Nick Books follows Denise and Alison during different stages of their lives, as kids, then as adolescents trying to cope with growing up, boys, death and disinterested parents. It is this switching forward between one period and another in the life of the two girls that creates at times a loss of suspense in the novel. It is indeed the first part of the book that comes across as the best and most homogeneous, while the second is rather grey and grim. Yet, Brooks’ debut novel manages to capture the attention of the reader quite beautifully.

The very first page of the novel is simply wonderful: Denise and her grandma are at the butcher and the author describes what they see through Denise’s eyes, disappearing behind a prose that could have been written by a child (“The butcher man was big and brown like a cartoon, drawn in with crayon colours, all darks and blacks, fat cheeks and hair combed over the top of his head that kept flapping down and hanging there, the bald bit underneath like a knee sticking through the torn hole in a pair of jeans. There was an extra cushion of chin under his face and he wore this white apron splattered with red and dried-in bits of stuff. You didn’t like to think where it had come from, except you had to: it was all around. Trays of body parts tilted towards you, offered up with wee pins and flags stuck in them like a parade, saying, Pick me! Pick me!”)

My Name is Denise Forrester marks the arrival of a new talent onto the literary scene.


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