Top critical review
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on 16 March 2013
1989. In Yewtree Row London acclaimed writer Phillip Prys is reduced by a stroke to an occasional blink, a carer now required. In Scotland seventeen year old Struan Robertson, Cuik School's very finest, has already had much experience tending the old and the dying. What more appropriate way to spend his gap year?
At first this novel seems set to be the light-hearted misadventures of an innocent abroad - Struan moving from where all are as pale as a potato to where people sport a wide range of colours; he, sharing gran's firm attitude about right and wrong, soon amongst those whose concepts are blurred. They include Prys' obese ex-wife Myfanwy, fat daughter Juliet, wastrel son Jake, current wife slim Shirin from Iraq, anorexic Celia, worried publisher Giles. What effect will they have on him, and he on them?
For all this is a journey of self-discovery. Feelings may well change about major characters, some initially so dislikable, once it is realized what caused them to become how they are - the key to be found in that very first chapter. It is also significant why the author has set the novel so firmly in 1989. As it is with the world, will it be with the people Struan has grown to know so well, he himself instrumental?
Wry humour interweaves with more serious aspects. Readers' opinions may vary, the stroke itself making this for some an uncomfortable read - distressing memories provoked of a close one similarly afflicted. That is my reason for what must seem a mean three stars, whilst many others are able to like the novel far more. All, though, are likely to warm to good-natured Struan himself, he on a learning curve described with such warmth and relish.