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on 22 January 2014
Never has a book 'turned me around' in quite the way Tollesbury Time Forever did. In these days of ebooks I have tried to expand my reading horizons and I do download a fair few free or on offer titles but I still choose carefully, books that I really feel I will like.
In this case, I began by thinking I had made a mistake. The book gets off to a chiling but brief start with a nurse going back to the house of a psychiatric patient . So far so good. The reader is then quite abruptly plunged in to the weird, bizarre, often frightening world of simon whose reality is hard to take or understand. There was a point there where I thought I might not finish the book but I did carry on and I am so glad I did.
Although Simon seems totally isolated and, in many ways abandoned, the reader later learns of the love and care that has always surrounded him and about those who have watched over him.
The nature of Simon's 'affliction' might be very difficult for the lay person to understand but this is not a book that leaves you feeling distraught and with more questions than answers, in fact it is quite the opposite.
I would urge anyone who felt this was 'not their cup of tea' but who was tempted to read out of their comfort zone to go on and give it a try. This is a very special book in many ways and one that will stay with me. The 2 star 'couldn't finish it' (from the point of view of my own reading tastes and preferences rather than any fault in the writing) slowly worked its way to 5 star as the book and my own interpretation of it progressed. In the end, I loved it!
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on 19 January 2013
'Tollesbury Time Forever' is one of the most unusual books I have read in a long time. The book effectively draws the reader into the world of Simon Anthony, and that's all I'm going to say on the actual plot! I really think it is best that you read the book with as little knowledge of the content as possible.

I will admit that when I started reading the book, I was worrying a little about reviewing it. 'Tollesbury Time Forever' boasts an incredible number of five-star reviews, and I worried that I would not be able to contribute another one. I needn't have worried! The book captivated me from start to finish. It is well-written and the prose (and poetry) never feels any less than profound. I could easily read this again and see new things.

Reading the book is itself an experience. It is filled with a sepia-like nostalgia and I was deeply moved by Simon Anthony's story. The book stays on the right side of sentimental too. It could have gone too far and been sickly sweet, but the balance between happiness and its opposite is maintained beautifully.

I rate this book five stars. It's clever, moving and, as with all best books, has made me view things in a different light.
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on 7 March 2013
I started reading this book from a blank slate: the blurb is cryptic (but intriguing), and I had not read any of the reviews (or any of the author's other books). I think this was the best approach for me, because it allowed me to enjoy this remarkable story to the full as it unfolded.

The main character is Simon Anthony and the entire story is woven very closely around his life and experiences. It's very much a book about experience: how they are subjective and unique to us all, and how these experiences shape the way we see the world. On paper Simon Anthony suffers from a mental illness although a key theme in this wonderful book is that there is no sane or insane, well or unwell, just people trying to get the most out of their lives.

The story is frequently surreal, and it is by no means clear to the reader what is real and what isn't (ultimately, is anything real?) We see the world as Simon Anthony sees it. I was spellbound by his journey and the message of hope and forgiveness cheered my soul.

I don't know what else to say about this very special book, except that it will make your life better by reading it, and change the way you look at the world.
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on 26 February 2013
Can you read? Do you understand the beauty and richness of the English language? Can you see? Do you understand the beauty and richness within each and every one of us? Can you hear? Do you empathise with others, perhaps less fortunate (perhaps more!) than ourselves when they are calling for help?

This book isn't just that. A book I mean. Its so much more. Its a narrative of the world that is all around us. That we all experience. We all taste. Or do we? This book opens your eyes. To a world we all think we know and understand. It challenges that understanding. I applaud this.

I imagine the author to be lost when he is writing this. Lost in an intoxicated and under the influence mad mad world desperately trying to see his way through the fog. To the end. Whatever that end may be. Is this how Simon feels? Id be interested to hear your thoughts.

This book is written so incredibly well. So beautiful. So poetic. Yet with real grime around the edges. It doesn't aim to please. Anymore than it aims to entertain. It is what it is. Yet in being that, it is so much more. And it does all of the above in an effortless fashion. Rather ironically, and in stark contradiction to my ramblings i enjoyed every second of this book. It pleased me and it entertained me. I do believe it educated me also.

Put simply, to own this book will enrich your world. Whether it be sitting in your bookcase. Or existing in a digital cloud somewhere in a parallel universe. I urge you to do just one thing. Own it.

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on 5 May 2013
This was different to my expectations - with all the high reviews and people talking about it on the forums. Overall, I was a bit disappointed and struggled to finish it. However, it was a book group read so I persevered.

(I read this book straight after I read Far from the East End: The moving story of an evacuee's survival and search for home by Iris Jones Simantel. Both books are set in Essex, both starting in Dagenham. But so many miles apart!)

So, Tollesbury: (This is not a spoiler as it happens very very early in the book) Why did the family not know where grandma lived? She left them the house but they had never written to her? Never visited?

It's a strange story. Is it fiction? Is it based on a true story, a real event? I know very little about mental illness so can I accept that this narrative is what a psychotic episode might be like?

I personally found the poetry a bit basic - was that meant to be the case? Perhaps those pieces would have been better told as a story rather than a poem. I also found the references to the Beatles a little confusing. As I have never been a Beatles fan and don't know all of their music I could not work out how relevant the references to them were - or were meant to be. I have to assume they were meant to be relevant as they were constant.

I found the ending too coincidental for words but maybe that's just me!

So, lots of questions in my mind. But, in its favour it was well written, interesting prose. If this is what a psychotic episode is like then it is very scary. I did find that aspect incredibly thought-provoking as I could not imagine what it must be like. A very tricky subject.
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on 31 May 2013
Before I go any further, I'll say this book is incredible. Stuart Ayris writes wonderfully (and fast, I have discovered).

I struggled with the first half of this book - my own fault, for not engaging with it properly as a reader. Once I tore off the shackles, I instead struggled to put it down.

This is a clever, clever book. The story is brilliant, fascinating, insightful; it's filled with sorrow, joy, humour - within the space of two minutes, I went from giggling like a tipsy teenager to being completely stunned by a tsunami of grief - wow!

That's all I can say really, for any more than this might spoil it for you, but the blurb will give you a fairly accurate understanding of what it's about.

Just read it.
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on 30 June 2012
I first became aware of Stuart Ayris when he responded enthusiastically to my tweets about Tollesbury. I found out he had written this book and was keen to read it.

The sections explicitly about Tollesbury are uncanny, not just because Stuart draws them so accurately but also because he describes exactly what it feels like to be in and around our wonderful village.

But this is so much more than a novel set in a place I know. It tracks its main character on an amazing journey through a labyrinthine plot. A summary here could not do justice to the skill employed as often surreal set pieces leave the reader wondering what is real in the story and what is....also real.

At times, I laughed, at others I gaped at the breadth of what was being told to me and in the end I just welled up in sympathy and empathy as it all ended.

Many other reviews use the words 'extraordinary' and I can but echo these reviews. I could not recommend this any more highly-an incredible read. If you are thinking of buying- go on!
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on 5 March 2013
This is one of the best books I have ever read... it is gripping, moving and heart-wrenching. I live in Tiptree and know Tollesbury very well... and maybe due to this fact I really believed this was a true story...the descriptions of the places and people are so real(altho sadly Mo from the cafe has now died). I also have family in Dagenham and Upminster cemetry so the story line really tugged at my heart-strings too.
It is the kind of book that once you have read it you will never forget.. whether you like it or not. It has changed my way of thinking about mental illness and how it is treated...

I am looking forward to reading the other books in the triogy.

To anyone still not sure whether to read it after all the reviews.... Just read it!!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 January 2012
Two of the most important things in my life are Cricket and Mental Health, so no wonder I was drawn to this book.
The book is beautifully written. I read it pretty much in one sitting (only pausing cos life got in the way). I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I empathised so much with Simon through his journey. Suffering from mental health issues myself, it is always a concern to me how a book like this is going to affect me personally and, although I did go on a bit of a rollercoaster ride emotionally, I believe that Mr Ayris has got the balance between the dark bits and the lighter moments absolutely perfect so I felt totally safe the entire journey.
It is hard to believe this is a new author, his use of language and description is, at times, simply stunning, and the movement between the use of prose, poetry and lyrics in telling the story is a new one on me and works so well. The story as well as being heart-warming and emotional is also original and believable. His characterisation is also spot on. Never have I related so much to a character as I did with Simon. There were a fair few "I do that" moments, most of which made me smile (especially the posting incident).
I can take so much from this book to add to the tools I have already at my disposal in my own journey of recovery. Sometimes a book lands at your feet at the right time. I believe that this was one of those books for me and will be one I will carry with me always and refer back to often.
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on 24 January 2016
If you like 'different' this is the author for you. I brought this book as soon as it came out as I lived in Tollesbury for 30 years and the description was intriguing to say the least. This book still plays on my mind (in a good way) and do wonder if it was all true or not? Knowing most of where the author was describing was lovely as it brought back so may memories. Stuart has an amazing way of writing and I highly reccommend this book and all the others he has written. You will not be disappointed.
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