Review of ‘The Posthumous Adventures of Harry Whittaker’ by Bobbie Darbyshire (2019, Sandstone Press)

The Posthumous Adventures of Harry Whitaker by [Darbyshire, Bobbie]A new novel from Bobbie Darbyshire is an event to celebrate. Here one is. Huzzah!

I have seen her new novel described as ‘quirky’. As she has created her own version of the afterlife I wouldn’t argue with that epithet. When we first meet Sir Harry Whittaker, inheritor of Olivier’s mantle, he is already dead – albeit recently. Subsequently it is agreed by all those dealing with his estate that he was not a very nice man. With all this against him how is Darbyshire going to make a satisfactory protagonist out of him? But this is, as it were, a crossover novel as there are vibrant living characters in this drama as well as the dead one. All have their flaws; also pathos and redeeming qualities. These living characters are all affected by Sir Harry’s Last Will and Testament.

The story reminded me of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, in which the ‘rude mechanicals’, the fairy folk, and the love-sick nobles flit about a magical wood looking for their hearts’ desires and ways to achieve them. For ‘magical wood’ read ‘Brighton’ (dear Brighton, so warmly drawn!). As with MND, there is a nexus towards which all the characters are drawn. The nexus is dead Harry Whittaker, his Will, his cat and his portrait. The various characters bump into each other quite logically, if apparently out of the blue – again as in MND – and are forever changed. The magic of Darbyshire’s world draws in just the right characters and gives them exactly what they need.

The substantial cast of characters are beautifully realised. They demonstrate that trying to define ‘normal’ is a fool’s game and that nobody is ever average. There is pink hair. There is a pack rat. There is a port wine stain. There is a solicitor. The reader is guided accurately through the activities of this ever-increasing cast as they swirl through the pages of the book. One wonders how so much can possibly be brought to a conclusion. But order is brought out of chaos, as Darbyshire shows us precisely each character’s place in her schema.

One doesn’t come across magic realism that often in British writing. Angela Carter is the author who springs immediately to mind when searching for a work comparable with this. Darbyshire is a kinder writer than Carter, but with this novel is definitely operating in a similar milieu.

This is a lovely book about the possibility of becoming a better person than you ever thought you could be.

 

 

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed.

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