Raking the Dust by John Biscello

I am often approached by authors asking me to review their novel and whilst I always agree to do them, my reading time is greatly diminished these days, so I make sure to advise that I will review their book but unfortunately there may be a bit of a wait. John Biscello is one of these authors who has waited for quite some time for a review, so here it is. Apologies for the delay!

Raking The Dust tells the story of Alex Fillameno, divorced dad of Samantha, an, as yet, unrecognised literary genius and friend to all. When he meets DJ, Dahlia Jane, he is captivated by this woman and the way she makes him feel. Yet he seems perpetually in a state of ennui and no matter what is good about his life, he is haunted by his past and does not seem to be able to get a proper grasp on where his future lies. As DJ introduces him to a lifestyle he would never have imagined, he becomes obsessed with the practices she introduces him to.

If I am honest, I really struggled to get through this book. Whilst Biscello is a beautiful writer in terms of his poetic flair and his wonderful use of figurative language, I wasn’t quite sure what he was trying to tell the reader most of the time. With a mix of reality and fantasy just a bit too far and wide to marry up, I found it difficult to follow. I’m sure there is some kind of abstract meaning but unfortunately I struggled to grasp it.

There are sections of lucidity, such as when Alex is with his ex-wife and daughter, and when he is talking about Jeannie, his former girlfriend. This holds promise of discovering more about why Alex is so lost within himself. Then there are sections of confusing narrative where it is difficult to know what is real and what isn’t. Biscello’s decision not to use speech marks is often misleading and leads the reader (or at least, me) to read certain passages a number of times to grasp who is speaking within the conversation. In a series of fairly feasible events, there was a certain aspect, of which I won’t mention here for those that may wish to find out for themselves, that raised the narrative to a level of fantasy that didn’t really work for me. The sexual act that takes place between DJ and Alex is so unrealistic that it just seemed to overshadow the whole novel with a big question mark.

I think perhaps I was missing some point that may be obvious to others who have read it but I couldn’t for the life of me see it, which was such a shame because I did like Biscello’s writing style. He writes with such a lovely poetic style that the plot of this story seems a bit wasted on such beautiful phrasing. Also the references to various writers and poets was fascinating to read and Biscello is obviously very well read. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it by any means but I did not enjoy it as much as some other books I have read recently.

I loved Samantha. She was my favourite character. Biscello describes her childlike innocence and occasional adult-like responses perfectly and Alex’s exchanges with her are really lovely. He is a good Dad to her for the most part and knowing how much he nurtures Samantha and how much she loves her Daddy makes it all the more frustrating when Alex seemingly forgets his responsibilities in favour of being a drunk, drugged up bum. I like a book where I can cheer on the main protagonist and I didn’t feel that connection with Alex.

Whilst I wasn’t a fan of Raking The Dust, I would love to read more of Biscello’s writing but this novel wasn’t to my taste. That’s not to say it was a bad book, but it wasn’t for me. All reading enjoyment is essentially down to personal taste and for me, this didn’t tick my boxes. However, if you do read it, and you can see where I’ve missed a significant point, please let me know. If you like something that is a bit different and you don’t mind a heavily realistic novel with a dash of bizarre, perhaps this may be the book for you.