I was not at all sure that I would be able to identify with this novel, since it is over 40 years since I walked into the hall of residence of my university campus, but in fact things haven’t really changed all that much and I found the story compulsive reading.
The novel is told through the voices of the four main characters; Juliette, who is trying to escape her rigidly Christian upbringing, Callum, a rich, good-looking young man with a family secret, Yasmin, an annoyingly superficial girl with her own agenda and Ruby, a football loving tomboy with low self-esteem. Opening with a tragic accident at the end of the summer term, the story moves back to the first day of the Autumn term when the four characters first meet. They are all trying to make a good impression but they are also attempting to have a new persona, concealing the aspects of their past lives which they do not wish to share.
It is easiest to identify with Ruby, although I wish she would stop calling everyone “mate”, including herself. From a shy mousy girl, lacking confidence she blossoms into a popular, sociable student, but we realise from her internal dialogue that she still feels inadequate. Juliette is complex and interesting and you can’t help liking her. Callum is like so many privileged, handsome young men; good-hearted, lazy and easily manipulated. Yasmine is an enigma. Although reasons are given, just why she is so poisonous in her attitude to the other girls, isn’t clear.
Other reviewers have commented on the drugs and alcohol involved in the story but it is the constant chain-smoking which shocked me. Set in the era just before it was banned in public places, there are interesting clashes between the smokers and those like Callum who disapprove.
As is usually the case, misunderstanding provokes much of the storyline but secrets and lies enhance the drama of the situation. I found the setting, writing style and denouement very refreshing.
Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.
Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.