The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom
Blurb: I needed someone I could trust. Someone others would trust. Someone with no criminal record. With no previous involvement. A cleanskin. Someone to come over, do the job, and go home …
Some days, even Halley can’t find the person she once was. She’s changed her name and no one – least of all her husband and son – knows of her past. No one except Aidan, who turns up one day in her small Australian town and shatters the façade she’s built so carefully.
Aidan is on a mission. But why is he still taking orders from his brother in an English jail – at the cost of his own happiness?
When Aidan forces Halley to face what she’s done, what they discover not only changes their understanding of what happened back then, it changes everything now.
Laura Bloom deftly goes to the dark heart of The Troubles to explore the lingering damage wrought by sectarian conflict on communities, families and individuals. Based on real events, The Cleanskin is a story of intense human relationships with a cast of flawed and entirely believable characters.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Halley has moved to the quiet country town of Mullumbimby to forget her past and start a new life. She now has a loving husband and a teenage son, who know nothing of her previous life. But in the back of her mind is always the worry that her past will catch up with her because she knows “they will never let you go”.
Cleanskin contains a complex mix of characters that will have your emotions whirling. I loved them, disliked them, worried about them, couldn’t quite understand them and then perfectly understood where they were coming from. Each character was complex, flawed, real but they were never in your face. It was all very subtle.
The main plot focuses on the actions of the IRA and the troubles in Northern Ireland. However Bloom doesn’t push any agendas as the characters take centre stage and what a truly colourful and frustrating, although understandable, lot of characters Bloom created.
The story jumps around between time frames and we are left with a lot of mysteries at the start which frustrated me a little but as the story unfolds I came to not only understand the story but also understand Halley’s frame of mind.
Neither plot driven nor character driven Bloom has written a unique and complex story of family, love, religion, relationships, manipulation and discontent.
I love a good twist and this one I didn’t see coming. I was absolutely gobsmacked and had to read the page twice to make sure I had it right.
About the author:
It’s the people traditionally left out of the frame who interest Laura the most, as well as what happens after what would be the climax in many stories. A couple reuniting after the war, in IN THE MOOD; a woman who has changed her name and started a new life, only to find her old life catching up with her, in THE CLEANSKIN; what happens when you break up with the perfect person, in CHOOSING ZOE.
Laura’s novels have been shortlisted for the NSW Literary Awards, the ABC Fiction Prize and the Young Australian Readers’ Awards and published in France, the US and the UK.
Laura grew up in Sydney and graduated with a BA, Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney. She has worked in the areas of youth policy, social justice and health promotion, and has travelled widely, including living for spells in Germany, India, the UK, and as a toddler in New Guinea, which is where she began her love affair with the sub-tropics.
She now lives in a small town near Byron Bay on the East Coast of Australia with her chosen family, including her godson and her son who has autism. For such a word-based person it’s been an extraordinary journey to learn to love and communicate beyond words.
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