Jane is an award-winning author and educator. Her first, unpublished, novel received the Northern Debut of the Year award from New Writing North. I first met Jane when I attended one of her writing courses in Manchester. I later attended other courses and events that she has facilitated. She is really supportive of other writers and spoken word performers wherever they are in their writing career.
Dear Neighbour, is her debut adult novel and was born out of conversations about the isolation that was felt by many during Covid lockdowns. Our sense of near community changed during that time and the book is a reflection of that, although not set during that period.
I’ve read and listened to some of Jane’s young adult writing and was hoping the strong characters would be there. I wasn’t disappointed! The book is based in a small street in Leeds. The residents all receive a letter that contains bad news, it leads them to start to talk to each other in a way they haven’t done together. The book is written in a style I’ve often enjoyed where the story is told by five characters with chapters from each one’s perspective. I fell in love with different people as I made my way through – I’m still not sure who was my favourite, although I miss them and want to know what happens next. The book reminds us that our home is a place of safety that is unique to the individuals that live there. Throw a metaphorical hand grenade into that space and we will fight. Each character has their own story that makes them join together for what they need even if they are reluctant to do so. The characters span the age range and circumstance, in reading this I was reminded we need to ditch our prior expectations of people and see beyond what is initially offered.
This book far exceeded my expectations, I felt a sense of sadness when I finished the book. The characters will stay with me for a long time. I think it would make an ideal book group read and I will be recommending it to the group I attend.
Dear Neighbour will be published on 15th June via Sphere
Find out more about Jane Claire Bradley and pre-order the book via her official website
Review by Carolyn Batcheler