Book - Children of Paradise

Tony Cross is reading all the books on this year's Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. Here are his thoughts on Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova...

Children of Paradise is a short novel, written by ‘Holly’ about her time working at a small, independent cinema, The Paradise. Each chapter is named after a film, which made it feel like a French Chateaux I once stayed at on a company work trip whose rooms had been named after Hollywood stars.

I suspect Camilla Grudova worked in a cinema. It has the air of something based on personal experience and the gathered mythology of a thousand members of cinema staff over the decades. Those stories that are told to new members of staff about the worst experiences of working in a particular place. Every profession has them, but I suspect cinemas provide a lot more of them. After all they’re places of fantasy in the darkness.

Grudova also manages to use it to tell the story of the enchainification of the cinema business. The way corporate sameness is flattening out the character of places even if that means a more obviously professional approach. At least on the surface. We all know what unprofessionalism happens in businesses on a regular basis. The court cases tell us that.

Holly’s story introduces us to the rest of the staff. We also meet Iris, who is the owner of the cinema at the beginning of the book who is as broken down and eccentric as the cinema she owns. We get to know, at least on a realistically surface level, her co-workers. A lot happens at the Paradise. Far more than I suspect has even happened at a single cinema, but that goes back to the mythological feel of this book. It’s like a Platonic cave.

There are also some hints at something like magical realism as the book goes on after the staff go searching for an alleged lost screen where once upon a time people used to go and watch pornographic films. It doesn’t actually exist, although Holly might have stumbled across it. This adds a little extra something to the novel.

I suspect if you work in a cinema – actually, if you’ve worked anywhere where you have to deal with the public – this will be a book you’ll enjoy. I’m sure some of it will feel like it happened to you.

It manages to be a story that combines the joy of film, with the horror of cinemas.

Follow Tony on Twitter @Lokster71

Image - Amazon

The 16 longlisted books for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction are as follows:

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris
Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova
Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks
Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo - READ TONY'S REVIEW HERE
Homesick by Jennifer Croft
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
Pod by Laline Paull
Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin

The winner will be announced on 14th June.

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