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Ode to an old vanishing world
on 17 November 2009
Bates uses his fantastic language in this fourth novel about Pop Larkin and his eccentric family in the Kentish countryside. It has it's funny moments thanks to his extraordinary word choices and descriptions of things. But unfortunately the storyline in this fourth book is much weaker than the previous ones.
It's a sentimental ode to an England that is disappearing. In a way the book resembles his short story collections more than a novel since he this time does not have a real thread throughout the book and seems to have had lots of different ideas for it. It starts with a story on how Pop decides on humiliating an arrogant Captain. But that story has nothing to do with the rest of the book. Then there is violence in form of modern youths deciding to pick on old-fashioned villagers and customs. One does not want things to really go THAT dark in a Pop Larkin novel where everything is always so wild, funny and cozy. What the book mostly is about though is the christening of Pop's youngest son, Oscar who has turned 3 years old and that of his two month old grandson, Blenheim. All the Larkin children decide to get christened at the same time as "the babies" and a character from book two, Mademoiselle Dupont, shows up in this novel as a godmother. But Bates does not really follow up on her character that well. He concentrates more on the fact that Ma has started to paint nudes, especially of daughter Mariette who has just become a mother, and he also deals a lot with the fact that the now 14-year old Primrose Larkin, tries to seduce the interim priest in the parish.
Can I recommend the book? Yes, because I think that the fifth and final novel will much build on this one and that is how I felt when I read this book: It's a book one must get through to understand and enjoy the next one.