The Girl on the Pier by Paul Tomkins (Book Review)

the girl on the pier

The Girl on the Pier by Paul Tomkins is a terrifically written novel of one man’s search for the woman who would fill the void of abandonment left by his emotionally disturbed mother. Only to find himself unable to hold onto his own sense of reality.

“..Who is she? I am asked of a girl no one seems to know, a girl who will never awake. Again, I take photos, to add signs of life.
There are two kinds of missing person: there is the man or woman, boy or girl, who disappears, leaving behind frantic friends and family. Some are taken, others leave of their own volition. These are the lives without a body.
And then there is the body without its corresponding life: the unclaimed corpse in the morgue, matching no description on file, teeth correlating to no known dental records, fingerprints stored in no database, DNA unrevealing in the skein of its code (which, to itself, means everything; and yet to us, without a match, means nothing). The unmissed missing…”

Patrick Clement is fast becoming a well sought after forensic sculptor. Able to add flesh and identity to the bones of the missing, he is identifying many for the loved ones who lie in the limbo of not knowing. But it not the dead that occupy Patrick’s mind, but the ghosts of the women who he has lost. His mother who abandoning him on a train as a young child, trusting that his father would be there to claim him, and then throwing herself to her death underneath the tracks. To his wife who inexplicably accuses him of the very acts of infidelity she has done. To a young friend, who uses him in an act of robbery from the only family he has left. To the girl he sees one day on the pier. A girl he spies that steals his heart only to disappear from his life forever.

The Girl on the Pier is the story of a man who is shattered and broken on the inside but is composed and utterly in control on the outside. He is the epitome of what is normal and it is that which shows his cracks and flaws. For who really can stay quite so normal for so long. Abandoned by every woman he has ever loved, Patrick seeks out the perfect woman for himself and it is when he spots her on a pier, coming to the aid of a lost boy. He loses her only to run into her again, standing naked in the art studio of an old friend.

“…At this stage it may be normal to undress, with one’s eyes, the subject of the infatuation. But I have already seen her naked. Visually there is nothing left for the imagination; a form of perfection. So instead I move onto the next stage, and imagine physical contact. From across the room I feel the cambers of her flesh, the jutting peaks of bone softened by skin, the twists of hair uncoiled from their pigtails. My mind wills eager hands up and down her body, lingering at points of interest. My palms are warm, clammy, wet with sweat against her skin. I read goose bumps like Braille; stroke faint downy hair, momentarily pricked up; with my fingertip encircle the birthmark on her thigh; stroke the tiny tubercles that populate her areole. Only to an insane mind are these imperfections.
Normal people just don’t enter your life in this way…”

Slowly The Girl on the Pier begins to pull and tug at the twine that holds Patrick’s sanity together until the very end where he is laid bare for all to see. But more, for himself, to finally see.

The Girl on the Pier is slow at parts, the single narrative of Patrick at times stops and starts but his complex and every evolving character will keep you wanting to learn more. To peek a little more behind the curtain that is his psyche until you the reader learn, as Patrick learns, who and what he is.


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