February 10, 2017
In this fictitious diary, newly divorced Graham Hope gives himself six months to relaunch his life after divorce. His ex-wife’s accusation that he is “Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones’s lovechild” suggests the author’s intention for the book.
We follow Graham’s progress from living uncomfortably with his parents with occasional access to his sons, to moving into a rented flat and acquiring a new girlfriend, Amy. Graham gets a wake-up call when Amy is seriously injured in a car accident, causing him to emerge at the end of his six month plan a better and more self-aware adult with a promising new relationship ahead.
The novel explores predictable themes: the challenge of sharing childcare between divorced parents, jealousy and resentment of the ex-partner, a lack of confidence in moving on, the dubious comfort offered by his mates. The characters, their situations and their actions were realistic, and I particularly liked the portrayal of Graham’s relationship with his sons. However, the structure felt a little hurried, forced by the neatness of the timescale in the book’s title, though the ending was satisfying.
It took me a while to warm to and respect Graham. At first he seemed irritatingly immature and petulant, particularly in his attitude to his hated job. It’s never clear what this job involves, other than paying him a decent wage. More effort and detail in this area would have added depth to the story. The way he left his post, with a boat-burning hate-filled email to all his colleagues, didn’t ring true for me: I don’t think a grown-up who needs a reference would behave that way.
I am familiar with the area in which the novel is set, and being a Londoner could grasp all the colloquialisms and brand references. Non-British readers may either struggle with these or find them part of the charm.
The book was on the whole well crafted, but for my taste, it was a bit obvious and pedestrian, and lacked the spark to lift it into the realms of Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole. Only when it strayed into more ambitious territory, such as in the hospital scenes, did it really begin to shine for me.
This book would appeal to anyone who loves English humour, British settings, or divorce sagas described from the man’s point of view.
The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake is an easy, fun read. Anyone who’s ever been inside one of those Big Box home improvement stores will instantly recognize the setting, though I doubt my local Home Depot or Lowe’s is hiding sales associates as clever and funny as these. The conversations are the sort we wish we had with our work colleagues, but our colleagues are mere mortals, while the boys and girls of the House Station are bright and witty. The interactions with the customers-from-hell ring true, if sometimes exaggerated for effect.
Main character, Penn, is a recent collage graduate and wannabe writer (Why are these protagonists always wannabe writers, never wannabe lawyers, or wannabe plumbers?) working at the House Station after being denied entrance to grad school. Told in dairy-like episodes, the book chronicles Penn’s 431 days toiling in retail, his interactions with his colleagues, his roommate and his girlfriend, and his budding romance with Chloe, who works in Paint. It’s easy to visualize this story as a film—a young twenties, buddy-film, coming-of-age, romcom.
The book is well edited and fast-paced. There’s nothing deep, profound, or unexpected here, but there doesn’t need to be. Readers looking for a light, enjoyable story won’t be disappointed. A strong four stars.
Magnus Opum is a delightful read in Jonathan Gould’s unique style, a book that shows this writers extraordinary talent in even greater depths than his other works Flidderbugs or Doodling. Imagine a mix of Tolkien and Dr Seuss and you have Magnus Opum, a humorous epic fantasy that highlights the absurdity of cultural assumptions. Perfect for all ages, I urge everyone to read it.
Populated with bizarre animals like the borse, who has two legs shorter than the others, making them perfect for hilly terrain but highly unstable on the flat, and the Blerchherch, “a ravenous giant with a hunger of the flesh of all other creatures”, who lives in the dingy dungy Drunglegum valley, the books names alone provide plenty of giggles. I had fun trying to say words like Pharsheesh, Pergle-brots, Parghwum, and the rather tricky Hargh Gryghrgr out loud.
Magnus is a little Kertoob in a big world and with more courage than he knows. His main companion Shaindor is a beautiful Cherine, but he also befriends Klugrok one of the race of ugly Glurgs. These two races are mortal enemies, and as Magnus discovers, the only reason behind their conflict is cultural differences and misunderstanding. To the Cherines, anything ugly must be evil, and to the Glurgs anything that prides itself on its beauty is evil. And indeed, we do see the ugly side of the beautiful Cherine race. So, in true Dr Seuss style, there is an important message for adults and children alike.
I put this book squarely in the zany-and-out-of-the-box category (except that Jonathon has made his own box), and because it’s 2012 and the author isn’t waiting for traditional publishers to go through the incredibly time consuming process of making up their minds, we can buy it for next to nothing for our electronic readers. I give it 5 stars and urge you to buy it immediately.
Only in an Indie published book will you find something so highly creative and different. Long live Indie publishing. May it take its rightful place as a respected part of the publishing industry. This is where you’ll find alternative reading fare, the artistic ground breakers and even new subgenres.