4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Locally Sourced Organically Grown Fiction,
This review is from: Against the Tide (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`Jersey boy' JFH has for many years lived, brought up his family, and taught, near my home, on The Lizard Peninsula. `Against The Tide', a top quality soft back, thick pages, clear print, a pleasure to read, was printed and bound in Padstow. A local friend recommended this as `Harry Potter for men" - a pretty good summing up - and because I know JFH to say hello to at least, I was pleased to choose it from the Vine programme this month.
Muscular and masculine and that's not just the author, it's the writing too, we are really chucked in at the deep end in from page one. Ten fully fledged characters are thrown into the first four pages without so much as a "how's your father", or perhaps more pertinent, "Who's your father?" you can hear the teacher in John saying "Keep Up! Pay Attention!" with a threat to hurl the blackboard rubber if you don't. No such mercies as a dramatis personae; work it all out for yourself. Later on multiple big wigs, island officials who may or may not be what they seem blunder about like the Keystone cops; only firebrand Red Uncle Fred stands out and he's right off the wall.
At times the plot threatens to creak and groan under its own weight, this can't just be a first novel it has to be the start of a series, we haven't even got to the German occupation yet. If you are suffering from post Olympics depression turn to this, there are excellent set pieces that take you straight into the world of competitive swimming, water polo and diving (from a board). Never mind Quidditch; the tactics employed by Rudi the quasi Dutchman to win at water polo would make a grown man weep let alone turn off a fainter minded female.
Altogether, assured, intelligent confident writing, employing a sound knowledge of everything he is talking out - beginning with eighteen year olds; Jack is so believably drawn, he could be the son you are staring at across the table unable to make out anymore. This fit and physical youth is having his eyes opened in a big way; recent cruel histories, hardly bearable terrible stories, are being broken to him, his age giving him that wonderful bright black and white sense of conviction about what to do next. Jealousy, misunderstandings, amateur sleuthing, all set in 1939 just before things really blew up in a big way. Go to read Island Madness for the next episode is you can't wait for this chap to do it.
JFH soundtracks his tale quite beautifully and flowingly with music and the words of Shakespeare. Strains of the classics ripple, thunder and crash from various pianos, while the young, recently having put on The Merchant of Venice at school, quote fluently from the Bard, giving a depth, resonance and filmic quality to the whole book.
Wry understatement amuses through the heady stuff, cleverly entwined with Junior James Bond style exploits on land and sea. The most impressive thing for me was the geography. Any resident or fan of Jersey will be right there, breathing and seeing the familiar landmarks, harbours, fields and roads, the social history, time and place comes across as sound, sure footed and spot on.
Generous with genre this could be classified as Romance - boy/girl action from the start, although it is rather more lust than love one feels, and the breast beating is going on apace over that; Crime - well there are large amounts of industrial diamonds bobbing about and nasty men in black cars blocking narrow lanes and issuing/carrying out horrible threats. Thriller - there are certainly some very exciting scenes, chases, shooting and fighting too. It's all been thrown into the pot and left to bubble away. There's even a sub plot re T E Lawrence and his motorbike that I never quite got to grips with. Plenty of workmanlike explanation, an education even delivered with a spoonful of sugar, all go to make a tremendous read, plenty between the covers to get stuck into. Home grown, bursting with flavour, fresh and good for you, just like a wonderful Jersey potato in fact. Well Done John. Another helping, please, soon!