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The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
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The Closer I Get is the latest novel from Paul Burston and is published by Orenda Books. Described as ‘a compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…’ Now doesn’t that sound like a very relevant read for today’s society, a world where many of us are addicted to our online relationships?

Tom is a writer, an author, with one extremely successful book behind him. He has earned big bucks and has thrived on the acclaim that followed him, but that was then. Tom’s next novel fell flat. Social media taunted him, with the comments about him been a has-been, a one-horse-pony hitting him hard. His agent, now losing patience with him, is on his case to produce another BIG novel, but Tom is floundering. His mind is unable to produce the ideas and Tom is feeling the sense of failure and the fear of losing all that he has achieved. The more he dwells on it, the less he is inspired to write.

But through all the negativity and the terrible onslaught of comments in his Twitter notifications, Tom has one ally, one reader, Evie, who believes in him, who supports him and who, when he thought he most needed it, gives him the moral support to keep going.

Evie is a loner, a wannabe writer, and soon becomes Tom’s worst nightmare. Her adoration for Tom slowly morphs into stalking. Her comments of supports change to something very, very unexpected. Over time, Tom is living on the edge, not coping with the pressure of being the target of an online troll, eventually leading to him going to the court and having a restraining order placed on Evie….but Evie will not be silenced.

Evie lives with just her Dad for company. Over time, she becomes obsessed with her online relationships and the person she can be there. She is quite opinionated, very unafraid to express her thoughts on any matter, making Twitter the perfect platform for her to be noticed, to gain a following, to be heard and more importantly to be listened to. Following the court order, Evie is very distraught but Tom is relieved. Now he can move on, return to his writing and to his next masterpiece. but Tom does not realise the scale of his own online addiction and soon things take a very sinister turn.

The Closer I Get is quite a disturbing read. Many of us have built up online relationships with, in most cases, strangers, people we have never met in reality and possibly never will. We share parts of our lives with each other, we let people in…but do we really know who we are interacting with? Anyone on Twitter has experience of crossing paths with folk that raise the heckles or raise the hairs, but in most cases we can discontinue communications with this individual, shut them down immediately, the choice is ours to make.But what would happen if that person refuses to be shut down? What if part of us relishes the chase, relishes the adoration, the adulation of this person’s attention?

Tom is not a nice person. There was no part of his personality that I warmed to. He is self-centred, egotistical, completely absorbed in his own happiness and success, with very little regard for others around him. Evie is clearly unwell, unbalanced, a person in need of psychiatric help but who, for some reason, has slipped through the cracks.

The Closer I Get is a novel inspired by a real-life event in Paul Burston’s life, which gave him the seed for the rather unsettling theme that runs through the novel. Paul Burston’s portrayal of two very troubled individuals is uncomfortable, yet also fascinating, reading. I was unexpectedly surprised with my feelings toward the different personalities of the main two protagonists in the story. I felt sorry for Evie, I thought she was a person in obvious need of something positive in her life, something that would give her hope and the attention that she craved. Tom is similar to Evie in many ways, but I just felt no sympathy for him whatsoever. He brought to mind Maurice Swift, the main character in John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky, with a similar narcissistic personality.

There is constant tension and suspense running throughout this tale, keeping the attention of the reader until THAT ending. Paul Burston is a very interesting writer, quite an influential individual and one to watch. With a novel, The Gay Divorcee, previously optioned for television, I expect that The Closer I Get will garner the same, if not more, attention.

The atmosphere evoked throughout this book is certainly made for the big screen…IMHO…

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.