Looking Closely at a Polari First Book Prize Nominee

The Gift of Looking Closely
Al Brookes

Q: You describe The Gift of Looking Closely as a psychological mystery. What do you mean by that? 

A: I like the grey areas – the blurry edges between who we think we are and who we really are – and I’ve always been fascinated by what makes us tick. I wanted to write about a character who had not yet explored her sexuality, who is perhaps even surprised that she could fall in love with a woman. Claire is slow to open up, but she becomes obsessed with Evie, the charismatic elderly woman she visits regularly as community punishment after being caught shoplifting – and she falls in love with Evie’s younger self, who she comes to know through the older woman’s stories and photographs.


The author Al Brookes

The novel is a gradual unpeeling of the truth of things; the mystery is about what really happened, and even more about who the characters really are. There is deception and self-deception. Before telling Evie, Claire had never even spoken about the way she was tricked into helping her mother commit suicide. You can’t suppress things to that extent – they leak out, old patterns recreate themselves in the present.

I wrote the novel in the second person because I wanted to offer readers a different experience. So the invitation is to ‘be Claire’ – to step into her shoes rather than read about her. And as she says: ‘These are not comfortable shoes. But where they rub, where they hurt and most make you notice they aren’t yours – those are the best places to get to know me.’

The Gift of Looking Closely is available in ebook and paperback through Amazon or via albrookes.co.uk  and has been nominated for the Polari First Book Prize.

5 responses to “Looking Closely at a Polari First Book Prize Nominee

  1. Excellent read, wonderful exploration of character & secrecy. Highly recommended.

  2. Excellent read, I had to restart 2 or 3 times to get into the character of reading in 2nd person. Well worth the perseverance for a wonderful literary experience.

  3. I loved this book – never quite knew what was going to happen next and couldn’t put it down…intriguing and unexpected. I found myself drawn into the character by the writing style and some of the descriptions of simple things/experiences were really visceral (e.g. the velvet scarf!). I would highly recommend this book.

  4. Beautiful, sensitive, poetic, and sinister. I was held throughout by the voice and the way it draws the reader into living the experience with the character.

  5. I read this book, loved it and then introduced it to my book club who also really enjoyed it. We then invited Al to our group so that we could have a discussion with her. This was brilliant for our group and will be a talking point for years to come ☺

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