Gary Raymond: The Golden Orphans
Published By: Parthian
What The Blurb Says:
Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…
Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…
The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.
What I Say:
“As I say, this is a crazy island. What you see is more than you can possibly understand, and you don’t see the half of it”.
I have to say from the outset, that The Golden Orphans is not a novel I would ever have chosen to read. It is something that is completely out of my reading comfort zone, and to be honest, before starting my blog, I would not even have considered picking it up.
This is what reading for me is all about. Challenging yourself, having the confidence to try reading something different. Honestly, try it – then you might find a novel like The Golden Orphans.
Francis Benthem seemingly had an idyllic life. Living on the beautiful island of Cyprus, painting the dreams of his benefactor Illy Prostakov, it would seem that he had everything he could need. However, when Francis is found dead, our Narrator comes to the island to attend the funeral and without warning is gradually drawn into the mysterious world that Francis inhabited.
We never learn the name of the Narrator, but for me, that added a sense of mystery and timelessness to the novel. It could be something that happens at any time to any of us. We know that he is in a relationship with a woman called Clare, and that their communication is limited to a series of terse and distant phone calls, which serves only to show the cracks that are already appearing in their relationship.
When the Narrator decides to see for himself how Francis worked, he goes to Prostakov’s house to understand what his friend was doing so far away from home. As Francis has left all his possessions to the Narrator, he needs to visit Prostakov. When he finally meets Prostakov, the Narrator is the link between the two men, and he is offered Francis’ job. He is also introduced to two young girls, Dina and Darya, who the Narrator assumes to be his children.
All he has to do apparently, is paint Prostakov’s dreams. The thing is, that is all he is told. Prostakov will describe them, the Narrator has to paint them until he gets it right, but you sense that if he does not do it properly, there may be dire consequences.
This is the start of The Narrator’s intiation into the mysterious world of Prostakov. Little by little he is leaving the safe world he has known for so long, and is now entering a time and place that will mean he is slowly retreating from reality and is being cocooned from the world outside..
The Narrator is aware that he is walking into something that might be dangerous, and attempts to find out from the locals exactly who Prostakov is – and they are not telling.
I felt that this was a clever way of disorienting the reader. We, like the Narrator have no idea where this is leading us, no one is talking and we are as much in the dark as he is as to who Prostakov is. He is in a foreign country and his friend has died working for the very man he is trying to appease. Stelly, a man who works for Prostakov tells the Narrator that he was painting maps for his boss, and that he wanted him to keep painting until he got the details right. You immediately sense that Prostakov’s desire to keep the men painting is something far more than a narcissistic desire to have himself immortalised.
The Golden Orphans is set in Cyprus, and for me, I was completely naive about the history and the culture of this island. The Orphans of the title refer to the 30 children who had no parents when the Turks invaded. As the novel moves along, slowly we start to understand exactly why they are so important to Prostakov..
This is where the novel switches up a notch – up to this point, it had been a slow burning, eloquent exploration of Cyprus and the mystery as to why the painting was so important to Prostakov. What happens next, (and no, I am not going to tell you, buy The Golden Orphans!), suddenly hurtles this novel firmly into the thriller and action genre. The plot moves along at a breakneck speed, moving us one way and pulling us back another. It is intelligent, thought provoking and more importantly, had me turning the pages faster and faster as I wanted to find out what happened! It has all the hallmarks of a fascinating novel that would be a perfect television series.
The Golden Orphans is much more than a thriller novel. It is a compassionate study of a world I knew nothing about, a love letter to Cyprus and a way of understanding the history of an island that has seen so much in its history. If you are looking for a fast paced, elegantly written and poignant novel about love, life and the strength of the human spirit, The Golden Orphans should be added to your reading list immediately.
About Gary Raymond:
Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’, The Review Show, and is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review. He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gary-Raymond/e/B07FTSDY12/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Published by Parthian Books on 30th June 2018.
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