The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is at once both an impressive but frustrating debut. Sure enough, the drip-fed plot hooks you in enough to keep the pages turning, but the central character becomes so stilted and irritating that you end up wanting to shake him. Or punch him.
That man is George Foss, a Business Manager for a leading magazine for whom the world has passed him by whilst he has mourned the death of his college sweetheart. Except she’s not really dead and bursts back into his life one night.
The plot weaves its way through two timelines: George at college, young and hopeful, consumed by his sweetheart and George twenty years on, eaten alive by his love and prepared to do anything for this femme fatale. It attempts to ask whether you would throw away your existence for death and danger in the name of your first love.
And it is this that is a little unconvincing about Swanson’s otherwise action-packed debut. It’s a strain on credibility for me to believe that George has spent decades moping after her. It’s a fatal flaw that gets compounded by George’s constant recurring mistakes.
Yet Swanson paints an appealing picture of the endless possibilities presented by university, and specifically, the endless eternity afforded to first love. Swanson aptly captures the awkward uncertainty and baggage of your first love.
It’s a shame that George is such a weak-willed character. Other possible deficiencies in the plot are dealt with – even if this first time writer lines up the pieces a little too predictably. But it is George’s unswerving love and loyalty that lie at the root problem with this otherwise impressive debut. In trying to make George enthralling, Swanson actually makes him clueless – a pawn to advance the plot rather than being a defined character in his own right.
The femme fatale of the piece is strongly painted, but perhaps a little too stereotypically ‘bad’. Set up for the inevitable sequel, hopefully we will find a little more of what makes her tick.
The twisty-turny plot will lend itself to the next summer blockbuster and there’s little surprise that the move rights have been optioned. There’s promise in Swanson’s writing and his plotting, and whilst The Girl with a Clock for a Heart isn’t exactly heart-stopping, it’s certainly an exciting debut that hits many of the right notes.
The Fiction Stroker gives The Girl with a Clock for a Heart three strokes out of five:
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is available to buy now.