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Searching for Jimmy Page – Book Review

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“Don’t eyeball the moon, my great-grandfather used to say. Don’t you get yourself some back luck. I was fettered to his folklore, just as I was fettered to my hometown…” – this quote from the novel ‘Searching for Jimmy Page’ by Christy Alexander Hallberg is symbolic of the strongest theme in her book – the difficulty of letting go.

It’s an impressive debut book that’s set in the 1980s, about eighteen-year-old Luna Kane, who finds herself asking questions about her dead mother and the identity of a father she never knew. Hallberg carefully weaves this story, ensuring readers can’t just casually speed-read through it, because the sentences need a little extra attention or you wouldn’t be able to savor their rhythm or understand their meaning.

The plot is pretty straightforward – a young girl gathers courage to leave her small American town, to look for Jimmy Page, the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist who her mother was obsessed with. Luna lands in London, desperately hoping that meeting Page will help explain the missing chapters of her mother’s life. But is she prepared for the adventure and harsh realities of life that await her as she takes off from her home, to meet somebody that doesn’t even know she exists? That forms the rest of the story.

Luna’s character is an interesting contrasts of traits, she seems wise beyond her years, yet gullible in ways somebody who has never stepped out of their small town can be. She is a literature student who can quote the greats, but is asocial, with just one friend to rely on. Her mother killed herself when Luna wasonly nine and Hallberg vividly describes the tragedy in poignant flashbacks. I don’t believe in trigger-warnings, but there is some self-harm in the story, so be prepared for some graphic content.

The book almost reads like a non-fiction memoir, which is a compliment to the author for spinning a tale that is steeped in reality and the Rock n’ Roll era of the 60s/70s. For fans, this would come across as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Led Zepellin, and for non-fans, it creates a strong sense of intrigue – you feel the need to know more about these rock Gods who held so much sway on their followers and the ‘groupie’ culture. I found myself looking up a lot on Jimmy Page and his band-mates, leading me to a never-ending bank of trivia about their contemporaries and lifestyles. While I ended up reading some disturbing details about the musicians, Hallberg largely keeps it to the enigmatic side of the spectrum.

The story unfolds in a linear fashion, and even though some flashbacks are interspersed in between, the narration continues to flow smoothly. The only thing that felt slightly unrealistic was Luna’s powerful memories of her mother, she is able to conjure an eerily real vision of her 9-year-old self and the suicide. As a reader one has to be wary about the authenticity of these impressions. Luna’s memories could’ve been tailored in her head to suit her own expected image of the past. Or they could just be dreams that the protagonist passes off as reality. We cannot be sure.

The climax is grounded, and will be satisfactory for most readers. Luna builds a grand illusion and we all know how that can end. ‘Searching for Jimmy Page’ is a coming-of-age tale, that artfully mixes music, poetry, travel and memories. It’s easy to tell that the author is a professor of English, with meticulously constructed prose and clever allusions to literary greats constantly popping up through the book.

It’s a 4/5 from me.

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