Lucky Bunny follows Queenie Dove from her birth in 1933 to her beautiful, neglectful mother Moll and chancer father “Lucky Boy Tommy” in 1933, through a life smeared with crime, passion and fear. Something of a modern buildungsroman, Queenie is a criminal Jane Eyre, though instead of witnessing her growth as a good Christian, we see refine her criminal craft and expertise in trickery Queenie through evacuation, borstal and prison. Formidably intelligent, hopelessly naive and touchingly brave she struggles for the better things in life.
Once again Jill Dawson’s characterisation is excellent, proving that the authentic voices in The Great Lover were no fluke. The spectrum of characters are colourful, yet credible and so recognisable you can feel an ache in your bones- I felt genuine pain for Queenie’s downtrodden Nan. Dawson is so in character as she writes you wonder whether she hasn’t trained as an actress, the only other explanation for such apparent ease in assuming a role being that she draws on past lives, which makes the dialogue authentic and pacey, though the characters names are slightly clichéd- why is it violent Italian lovers are often called Tony and tarts with hearts are almost exclusively Stellas?
Despite the characters names, the story is original. Why is it that in crime novels set during this period women are often the Molls and the Mamas of the piece? Inspired by the Green Bottles, a glamorous group of shoplifters who help raise her, Queenie challenges this role using her brains to take herself from small time shop lifter to big time heister; though as the spoils grow bigger the risks grow higher, as we are reminded with a reference to the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK.
I really enjoyed this book, the narrative voice was refreshing, Dawson has brought a gritty period of British history alive with sex appeal, glamour and flair. After the dazzling and original build up, I found the ending of this book a little trite, though I can appreciate that others might find it exciting and daring- a risk you take when rooting your novel so firmly and vibrantly in historical events.
I was very kindly sent a review copy of this novel, but should you wish to read it the book will be published in August 2011 and is currently available for pre-order. For more on Jill Dawson’s writing and her work with Gold Dust, the mentoring scheme for writers visit here.