All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Sweet Damage – Rebecca James

on April 4, 2013

Sweet DamageSweet Damage
Rebecca James
Allen & Unwin
2013, 336p
Copy courtesy of the author/publisher

Tim Ellison is happy with his casual job as a cook at his father’s restaurant and spending his days surfing Sydney’s picturesque northern beaches. However he seems to be wearing out his welcome at his ex-girlfriend Lilla’s place where he’s been crashing on her couch. Her new boyfriend is getting testy about it so Lilla finds an add in the paper offering a cheap room to rent.

When Tim arrives to check out Fairview it’s not what he expects. The house is huge, a mansion in a beautiful location with one lonely occupant named Anna, who suffers from agoraphobia. The home belonged to her parents and Anna still mourns them after their death in a car accident. With no friends other than the siblings Marcus and Fiona, Tim is expected to occasionally help Anna out by bringing her things she needs, in return for the cheap rent. He sees no problem with this but it doesn’t take long before he’s wondering if he made the right decision.

There is definitely something strange happening at Fairview. Tim wakes up and thinks someone is watching him in his room, he is left something nasty on his birthday, he gets locked out. Anna swears that she isn’t doing it but there’s no denying the fact that her behaviour is beyond odd. At times she is easy to talk to and Tim can see the girl she would’ve been, before tragedy touched her. And at other times she is so closed off to him, distant and abrupt that he wonders just how fragile her mental condition really is. And who was Benjamin? There’s no denying that name means something but Tim is kept in the dark. As his feelings for Anna grow, so do the odd events. And Tim is wondering if this really was a huge mistake or is someone out to get them?

Sweet Damage is the second novel from Australian author Rebecca James and it’s a modern day gothic style story, revolving around a large, beautiful house on Sydney’s northern beaches and the lonely inhabitant within, Anna. Our narrator is Tim, a young and carefree type of guy – he’s not one to want to be tied down by a career and he’s not buckling down to save for a mortgage for his own piece of northern beaches real estate. He’s the sort of guy who’s happy getting up, going for a surf, having a lazy day and then working a dinner shift at his dad’s restaurant.

Anna has had tragedy in her life the past couple of years which has led to her agoraphobia and she spends most of her days sitting up in the attic of the large house, thinking. Reliving. Grieving. Even though she’s very withdrawn, you can see at times she appreciates Tim’s attempts at friendship and she tries to reciprocate. She’s damaged, she’s scarred but you can still see the person underneath that is just waiting to emerge again. Tim is good for Anna, because he’s the sort that doesn’t pry necessarily, but he attempts in his own way, to look after her. He doesn’t take offence at her often-abrupt moods and he copes better than I would at the creepy and often downright weird goings on at the mansion. It isn’t long before Tim and Anna develop some shy feelings for each other but there are other people around to complicate matters, namely the mystery of Benjamin and also Tim’s ex-girlfriend Lilla who doesn’t really want Tim but perhaps doesn’t want anyone else to have him either.

I enjoyed the delicate way the relationships between the characters were explored in this novel and the way in which James kept me guessing on several key things all the way to the end. Whilst I felt for Anna, I was never quite sure what was going on in her head and that kept me nicely on edge, trying to figure out if she was self-sabotaging her blossoming friendship/relationship with Tim or not. I do love a book that keeps me guessing and I really wanted to like Anna, to give her my sympathy but at the same time, the story was clever enough to keep me wondering, just a little bit, if she was a total whack-job.

I enjoyed James’s first novel, Beautiful Malice but I think I liked this one even more. Sometimes the second book can be a very difficult one for authors, having proven you can do it, you now have to repeat it. I think that Sweet Damage is a very worthy second novel, well constructed and written in a way that makes it all too easy to simply sit back and spend an afternoon between its pages. It’s part mystery, part gothic-inspired thriller, part investigation and exploration of grief, love and how the mind can be so fragile.


Book #76 of 2013


Sweet Damage is book #33 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013


Stay tuned for my Q&A with Rebecca on the blog in a couple of hours!



2 responses to “Sweet Damage – Rebecca James

  1. […] Sweet Damage – Rebecca James Apr […]

  2. […] categorised as Contemporary,  Young Adult and Suspense,  blurring genres and audience reach. Bree of All The Books I Can Read writes “It is part mystery, part gothic-inspired thriller, part investigation and exploration […]

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