The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
Review by M
The Bunker Diary has been nominated and longlisted for the Carnegie medal 2014.
The Bunker Diary is a gripping, single-sitting existential thriller with plenty of meta-fictional elements and I loved it. The writing style flows easily and concisely and I developed only a limited attachment to the characters (there are quite a few). For various reasons, in The Bunker Diary’s case, this is not a criticism. Also, Linus, is not at all fond of Bird nor Anja (and this is very curious). Stylistically, the writing (and the novel’s printed text) change in clarity, pace and style in line with the story.
The plot’s surface subject matter – violent kidnapping and living with others in confined and frightening imprisonment – is unpleasant and the novel is fraught with psychological and physical violence that many (especially younger) readers may find shockingly disturbing. But older readers are likely to engage with the novel in many ways and importantly for me, the plot was secondary to the form.
Storywise, and by myself, I found the ending a bit flat. Certainly, there are unanswered questions but is this an unsatisfying cop out or part of the novel’s point? For me, the clues are in the novel’s form. In a discussion group, the ending, and the novel as a whole, may well prompt questions that take the novel someplace else.
If this novel appeals to you, then you may also enjoy Nick Lake's Hostage Three which also deals with psychologies in captivity, bankers and metafiction.
Based on my reading, The Bunker Diary was a very refreshing and provocative read. Highly recommended for mature teens and older. It is also a perfect example of a novel that I would never have read had it not been in the running for an award.
See below for my detailed thoughts - contains spoilers!!!!!!!
Publication details: Penguin, 2013, London, paperbackThis copy: review copy from the publisher
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
My further thoughts and questions:
I didn’t fully believe the story because it was not a nice story and I didn’t want to believe it. I got more enjoyment from the clues in the novel’s form. These are the questions that played through my mind while I was reading the book – and still do:
· Um...did that actually happen? Or did he make it up? Was any of it real?
· Was it a drug-induced diary or the writings of someone who’s losing their mind? Was it therapy? Was Linus writing a novel?
· Children’s fiction and dogs! Why, oh why the Doberman??!!!
· Who were all those characters? I’m glad I didn’t get overly attached to them because that would have been a problem.
· Who was He? Was He ever there in the first place?
· What happened with his mum?
· Did anybody die or did anybody survive?
· Or, was the story simply a diary about a kidnapping event? I definitely prefer my interpretation.
END OF SPOILERS!!!!!!