Allen Therisa | 17 May 2023
Adventures About To Begin is built around the relationship between siblings Noah and Kelly, as the marriage of their parents collapses and they learn to live with the consequences of their family breaking up.
At the heart of this dramatic, though equally at times comedic novel is the competitive relationship between Noah and Kelly and how this changes over the years that follow.
Noah is the novel’s protagonist, however, and it is his perceptions (something, oftentimes inaccurate) that drive how he and his sister view the events that make their family what it is, for good and ill.
What makes Noah so interesting (if at times infuriating to his long-suffering sister)?
1) He worries that everybody might think he’s gay
This is at a time (the 1970s) when being identified as gay, particularly for boys and teenagers, could be a problem. As a result Noah, finds himself instinctively, in almost a paranoid fashion, doing everything he can to deny what is pretty obvious to anyone who knows him (Noah’s sister, in particular, is not fooled and takes a certain pleasure in taunting her brother over his burgeoning sexuality).
2) He’s a big David Bowie fan (but not so much an Abba maniac)
This is partly to do with his relationship with his sister, who is a major Abba fan in the mid-1970s when half of the novel takes place. Where Kelly loves Abba and becomes obsessed with the group’s Arrival album, Noah is more of a David Bowie fan. Cue the war of the 1970s musical icons.
3) He believes his father will rescue him one day
Noah is essentially an optimist, no matter what life throws at him and the air of ironic indifference he attempts to cultivate. So, after his parents’ marriage collapses he continues to hold out hope that one day his father and mother will be reunited and that, estranged from his father because of his parents split, his father will return to rescue the family (and him in the process).
4) Love (or at least teenage sexuality) comes quickly
And without warning in the most unusual situations and circumstances for Noah. Like many boys going through adolescence, puberty hits Noah hard and erratically.
5) He shares a secret with his sister that no one knows
Or at least they think no one know. What that secret is, rises enigmatically towards the surface as Adventures About To Begin moves towards its climax. Nobody knows except Noah and Kelly what that secret is and what their role in it has been.
6) He learns to live out of suitcase
As the marriage of his parents collapses, Noah, together with his brother and sister, develops the instincts of most children as they move from place to place to make a new life when familial circumstances change. Along the way, he learns to find his bearings where he finds them and that putting down roots can be a fast track to disappointment and confusion.
7) How he sees things are not necessarily the way they are
Even though he’s certain they absolutely almost certainly are. A running theme through Adventures About To Begin is the battle between perception and reality, as well as the dangers this can create. As the novel progresses Noah learns that very little is as it seems initially.
8) He’s not as strong as his sister is
Though he doesn’t quite realise it. Noah may be the novel’s leading protagonist, its hero, but it’s his sister who is the stronger of the two and, truth be told, the smarter of the two as well. Not that Noah would ever admit that to be the case.
9) The death of his grandfather is a blow
And a bigger blow than Noah would have thought before it happens. Noah’s grandfather passing away in a care home opens Adventures About To Begin and in the process starts the process of remembering which in turn reveals the events which shape the characters in the novel, for good and ill.
10) He’s not a big fan of camping
Camping was big in the 1970s (and still retains an appeal for some today), but for Noah, as for his sister, nothing creates a greater feeling of dread than the promise of a family camping expedition, regardless of how comedic it turns out to be in Adventures About To Begin.
Noah’s an enigmatic kid and remains a force for good to the end of the novel, regardless of how reality challenges his natural and apparently undefeatable optimism.
Even Kelly would give him that.