It’s my pleasure to share my friend Gemma Reeves’ debut novel, Victoria Park. Over the past few years, I’ve watched the process of this book come to fruition, and I want to cry telling you about it because seeing someone bring their dream into the world is impressive. Plus, it’s a good book.
I met Gemma two summers ago at my first (and so far, only) writers’ residency through Disquiet Literary Program in the Azores. She is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. We “mum style” swam with our heads out of the water so we could chat in the harbor of Ponta Delgado. She said it’s what mum’s do so they won’t get their hair wet as they exercised. In case you couldn’t tell, she’s British, a Londoner to be exact.
Gemma arrived for the residency primed to complete the first draft of Victoria Park. She worked at it and finished the draft by the time we left. I was in awe. We’ve stayed in contact, and she’s shared her frustrations and triumphs. I appreciate her openness in sharing the ups and downs of publishing. She never fronts as being easier than it was or complained to make it seem more challenging. Her genuine personality is what drew everyone on the trip to her.
Leading up to the pandemic, I envisioned going to London to see Gemma do a reading and have her sign my copy in person, but I settled for it coming via the mail. I was not disappointed at all when my copy of Victoria Park finally arrived. It’s a collection of stories about people who intertwine and overlap in the Victoria Park section of London. The characters go well beyond the surface of who a person might seem upon first meeting. The voice is authentic and honest. The characters are flawed and beautifully human. It was truly satisfying to read.
It’s not a shoot ‘em up or heavy plot-focused book. The characters drive the story in the best possible way. Bel’s Books on Youtube does a great job discussing this. She says it so well that each character is developed fully. None stand out as more developed and better written than any other. This is a tribute to Gemma’s observations of the world around her. She brings in various cultures and traditions that exist inside of a diverse community in a city.
The primary focus is the older couple, Wolfie and Mona. They are the central point as the ones who have lived in the community for fifty years. Victoria Park follows this community of characters through one year of their lives. All the other characters are built off their main thread, and you get to observe their various lives around the park. At the end of the book, there’s a feeling of satisfaction with each storyline feeling well-traveled but not overdone.
Victoria Park is a beautiful summer read. Taking time to meander around in these characters’ shoes and experience their lives as you relax from your own.