And here’s what I think of those books. Have I discovered my feminine side, you wonder? Aye, right.
The world of archaeology in which the novel is set, with its rivalries and jealousies and sporadic high excitements, is very believable. As are the parallel love stories at the heart of the story, one in the here and now and the other thousands of years in the past. And you’re left guessing almost to the last word how those love stories will end. Will it be doom or happiness for one or other – or for both? You’ll need to read the book to find out.
While the whole novel is expertly and cleverly written, what stands out for me are those passages which transport one back in time, back into the mists of pre-history and into the minds of people who lived then; real people who worked and played and laughed and loved. Those beautiful, haunting passages have stayed with me ever since. They alone are reason enough to get hold of this highly entertaining debut novel.
(If you’d like a taster of the aforementioned passages, the first of them has been published on McStorytellers as a short story called The Keltoi.)
Romeo and Juliet Ulster-Style
Ireland and the Troubles provide very authentic backdrops, therefore, to this wonderfully written story of love and tragedy across Ulster’s sectarian divide. It is the tale of Romeo and Juliet relocated to a modern time and to another land riven by tribal warfare. Like Shakespeare’s original version, it is a tale well worth reading.
A Class Act
The trio of central characters – over-privileged Julian, hapless Gary (born, like me, into poverty) and caring, sharing Grizelda, middle-class and in the middle of things – are finely drawn and very believable. These are inspired choices of names, by the way: Julian oozing silver spoon and public school; Grizelda conjuring up images of the well-heeled hippiedom that was rife in the Sixties and Seventies; and Gary simply signifying ordinariness.
The intertwining of the trio’s lives is also very believable, as are the two love stories that run through the book – the open, conventional one between Grizelda and Julian, and the covert, unspoken one between her and Gary. In fact, the whole book is cleverly constructed by one who obviously knows the system and his characters.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this beautifully written book. But I do have one grumble. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that Julian, the toff, receives his comeuppance. My complaint is that his punishment should have been much harsher, the words “lamppost”, “nearest” and “strung up by” springing to mind. I would say that, though, wouldn’t I? I’m an oik, after all.
The sad fact of the matter is that books like this one by caring authors like Dennis Hamley won’t create the slightest dent in the rigidity of Britain’s class system. If you want proof, take a look at the Old Etonian-dominated British establishment of 100 years ago, 50 years ago and today. Will it be ever so, eh?