The Lip by Charlie Carroll reviewed

The Lip Book Cover The Lip
Charlie Carroll
John Murray Press
March 18, 2021

Away from the hotels and holiday lets, there is an unseen side of Cornwall, where the shifting uncertainties of the future breed resentment and mistrust.

Melody Janie is hidden. She lives alone in a caravan in Bones Break: a small cliff-top on Cornwall's north coast. She spends her time roaming her territory, spying on passing tourists and ramblers, and remembering. She sees everything and yet remains unseen.

However, when a stranger enters her life, she is forced to confront not only him but the terrible tragedies of her past.

The Lip is a novel about childhood, isolation and mental health, told in the unique and unforgettable voice of Melody Janie.

'All of this is Bones Break. All of this is mine.

I know every inch of it; I know it as intimately as the seagulls. I stand at dead-centre, my feet teetering on the edge of the lip. Below, the thundering tattoo of waves on rock. Wind catches the tips of my hair, lifting them above my ribs: less force than it takes to knock me down; enough to make me right myself with a step to the left, and then another back again. Here on the lip, it is vital to know where my feet are.'

The Lip by Charlie Carroll

The Lip is about Melody Janie, now in her late teens. She is living in a caravan near a beautiful, and somewhat wild, spot on the Cornish coast. She stays away from people as much as she can. She loves the part of the coast that she considers hers deeply. It is obvious early on that she has suffered some tragedies in her young life so far. She has one friend who visits her, Esther, but she has never met Melody in the caravan and doesn’t know it exists. It is also clear that Melody does probably have some mental health issues. This is not the chocolate box version of Cornwall the holiday destination.

The story follows Melody Janie through a fairly short part of her life. It may be short but it is filled with events. Some of the narrative is in the present time however parts are reflections on her earlier life and that of her family.

Initially I found The Lip intriguing however it was a little awkward to read. There are time shifts that have no signposting and I wasn’t clear whether there was more than one narrator. You do need to know what “emmets” are too – being from the Westcountry that was fine with me! At times this is almost “stream of consciousness” writing but it felt appropriate. The more I read the more I wanted to read of Melody Janie’s story.

Overall I found myself completely engaged with Melody Janie as a character. This was born out by the fact that towards the end my eyes started to water…! Tissues may be needed. There was a time when I thought I knew where this was going – it turned out I didn’t and I was happy with that. The Lip manages to have beauty and poignancy as well as a simplicity too. It also made me laugh a time or two – frankly Dad’s “mad spider dance” still makes me smile. The writing really is very good. I don’t usually comment on the cover of books however I really did like this one.

Talking to Melody Janie her friend Esther says “how are you?” at one point and the answer is “unusual” which sums it up quite well. This will stay with me for quite a while. It’s a powerful story of family, belonging, loss and other things too. 4.5/5 definitely.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review