Author: A.A. Bell
A. A. Bell is a best selling Queensland author whose latest offering is the fantasy novel Diamond Eyes. Set in an adult care facility on an isle off the coast of Queensland this book gripped me and it’s 534 pages seemed to fly by even more rapidly than usual. Not a book I found easy to read on my lunch break because I kept almost forgetting to go back to work… oops.
Though categorised as a fantasy novel this is firmly set in the world we all inhabit. There are no fantastical creatures, though there are some personality types that you wish didn’t exist. The fantasy aspect of this novel is the fantastical abilities some of the patients of the Serenity Centre exhibit.
After years of contradicting misdiagnoses and heavy medication Mira finds herself on the brink of true insanity and frustrated with her institutionalised life. It seems that no-one listens to her pleas, the ramblings of the handicapped, until the day that Ben walks into her life and helps her to challenge herself and face her demons.
Mira is blind and suffers from Fragile X syndrome, she has been a ward of the state for 10 years and in that time been passed between orphanages and institutions with a string of different diagnoses. Through all of these years of misunderstanding Mira has become disillusioned with people in general and her frustration sees her acting out violently.
When Ben arrives on the scene he brings with him a new approach and treats Mira with a basic respect that all people are entitled to but which seems to have been lacking in Mira’s experiences, albeit a lot of that is because Mira has allowed her experiences to colour the way she interacts with new people and judges them all by the same standards.
It isn’t until two doctors gathering data of an experimental nature for a new polygraph prototype, which come to think of it is quite a fantastical little contraption, come across Ben and Mira in their study that we start to understand a little more about Mira’s condition. We start to see that the crazy ramblings of the blind handicapped girl aren’t so crazy after all. Her glorious and unique eyes should not be possible in a human, yet they are, and they behave in ways that shouldn’t be possible.
Serenity also houses at least one other patient who is his own brand of special with conditions diagnosed as disabilities, it isn’t until we start to uncover the quirks of the condition and understand that we see they aren’t disabilities; they are gifts that have taken until know now to be understood. The stories of he and Mira are inextricably bound, the extent to which will not be revealed until the very end.
Diamond Eyes has it all really. It is a story of burgeoning trust and the tentative early steps of first love, as well as being a story of intrigue and military espionage with futuristic gadgetry. It is also a beautiful story of the journey to independence tackled and conquered by many people who are visually impaired and intellectually challenged; which is a story so prevalent in the world around us. Because, what adult doesn’t want to be a productive, functioning and contributing member of society in some manner.
Bell’s characters are so well written that they jump right out of the page and into your head. They evoke strong empathy and understanding though their conditions are such that we could never put ourselves in their position. And I think one of the most endearing things about the characters in Diamond Eyes is that even some of the able bodied and the sighted authority figures are flawed. The matron suffered childhood polio and is carrying around a withered arm and shortened leg, one of the doctors lost part of his ears in a childhood fire.
There is much in this book to be admired and capture the attention of book lovers of all genres. One that provoked thought in all sorts of ways and one that I’m a little sad to have finished. I would love to know what happens next.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!