Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Last Orders

Last Orders by Graham Swift
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Orders is the story of a group of men who take a short road trip from London to Margate to dispose of the ashes of their lifelong friend, Jack Dodds, stopping off at various places on the way.

The book makes extensive use of London dialect for the entire narrative, which I liked. I really felt the narrator, Ray, was speaking to me. The book leaps about from character to character, place to place, and time to time, which I enjoyed, but I will confess I had to resort to an online character list in order to keep track of who all the characters were initially.

Some scenes are beautifully descriptive, and moving, but rendered in that London dialect which gives them a unique charm and a deceptive simplicity. I can understand why this novel won the Booker Prize.

Highly recommended, but be prepared to refer to a character list. It will bring the book to life.

View all my reviews.

Categories
Blog Posts

A Different Path – First Draft

If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll already know I’m working on a novel, which I’m calling A Different Path. I’ve been making excellent progress, and am on track to finish the first draft in three weeks, a little ahead of the target date I set for myself.

Since I started writing the novel at the end of May, I’ve envisaged it as a semi-autobiographical, nostalgic, coming-of-age story set in Lancashire, England.

Does that original vision still hold water?

Semi-autobiographical

I’ve been saying the work is semi-autobiographical, and that’s true for some of the scenes and events I’ve written about. However, my life hasn’t been quite as interesting as the protagonist’s. In some ways I wish it had been, but in other ways, I’m very glad it wasn’t!

In truth there’s now so much stuff in there that’s made up, I’m thinking of dropping the ‘semi-autobiographical’ label altogether.

Nostalgic

Maybe wallowing in nostalgia is a symptom of getting older, but I love it. Some of my favourite fiction works are deeply nostalgic, including Stephen King’s The Body, which was made into a film, Stand by Me, and has to be top of my list. Another is Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, which comes a close second.

Writing about the area in which I spent my most formative years has brought memories flooding back to me with such clarity, they could have happened yesterday. On that basis, I’d say the novel is very nostalgic.

Coming-of-age

The phrase coming-of-age means different things to different people. It’s classic definition refers to the point at which a person transitions from childhood to adulthood.

I agree with that, but I don’t believe it’s a legal milestone like the age of consent or the legal drinking age. For me, coming-of-age is more about an emotional maturing process that happens over a period of time. Mine happened when I was around twenty, and some of the scenes in the novel are real recollections from those days of youth.

Set in Lancashire

The beginning of the book is set in Lancashire, around some of the towns and villages of the Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland AONB. I revisit them throughout, right up to the final scene at the end of the story.

Even though I moved away a long time ago, writing about these places reminded me how much love I still hold for the area. At times, I became so emotional I could barely see my computer screen through the tears.

Next steps

After the first draft I’ll be working on the edits, which will take me some time, but a good novel is made during the editing process, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to take a step back and look at the work with different eyes, identifying areas in which it can be improved.

I’ll post further updates here, and on my Facebook page.

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: The Brotherhood

The Brotherhood by Jerry B. Jenkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Brotherhood is the story of Boone Drake, an ambitious rookie cop who wants to take on the Chicago underworld, facing some tough personal challenges along the way.

The first few lines of this novel grabbed me straight away. I knew it wasn’t my usual reading genre, but the opening was so slick and tight I had to keep reading. After a couple of chapters I was fully invested in the main characters and wanted to see it through.

Here in the UK, Jerry Jenkins isn’t as well-known as he is in the US, so the Christian subtext took me by surprise. I didn’t object to it, and felt it was important in the development of Boone’s character, but personally I felt there was a just a teeny bit too much. Some people might be put off by this.

Overall, I thought this was a great read, and I’m considering trying The Last Operative as my next Jenkins novel.

View all my reviews.