Review: ‘The Naseby Horses’ by Dominic Brownlow

(Review prepared from an uncorrected bound proof.)      The Naseby Horses by [Brownlow, Dominic]

This fascinating debut novel by Dominic Brownlow joins publisher Louise Walters Books eclectic and growing stable of novels on 5 December 2019.

It is gratifying, as a reviewer, to be turned loose on a book in advance of publication and I hope I have provided accurate insights to help you decide whether this is your sort of story. If the publisher makes Kindle samples available at the outset, I believe sampling the opening event will have you as hooked into this unusual book as I was.

The Naseby Horses is a novel of fluidity. It is set in the Fens, except when it wanders back to old haunts in London. It is set in the stupefying heat of August, except when suddenly the room is cold. Time is the most fluid thing of all (the novel begins on Day Three). Truth is also fluid. And the reader has a mounting sense that everybody is being economical with it.

To say that the narrator is unreliable is to understate. He, Simon, suffers with grand mal fits and the book begins with him coming home from hospital after the worst one yet. There is something of the autistic spectrum about Simon too – he is a meticulous observer and has excellent – if not perfect – recall. Because of his condition and his medication his grip on ‘now’ is often tenuous. His mind, like a butterfly, sometimes doesn’t seem able to distinguish between current events and the many places in the past upon which it alights.

Simon is a twin, and it is not giving away anything that the reader doesn’t learn early doors to say that his last fit coincides with the disappearance of his twin sister, Charlotte. They are twin-close, as if having shared a womb they cannot help but share their lives outside it. Simon wants only to protect her, to follow her, to find her – wherever it is she is lost.

The family has just moved from London to deepest Norfolk, albeit to a village they know well. Charlotte has been vocal that she doesn’t want to leave London. And there is certainly a feeling of Stepford about the village of Glennfield – and not just the wives. There are few other teenagers living there. The twins are thrown upon their own resources a lot of the time while the adults in the mix have their own problems to sort out.

Into the fluid mixture of time and place is added a mystery from the time of Cromwell and the Battle of Naseby. Simons acquires information about this mystery like he does everything else – like a sponge. It quickly begins to trickle through the book like a poison. Is everything connected? Or is, actually, nothing connected except in the mind of an overwhelmed teenager suffering from severe epilepsy?

The authorial voice which drives the story forward is knowledgeable. One felt throughout that none of the characters was telling much of the truth most of the time, but one felt the controlling hand and meticulous research of the author throughout in the way that the historical story, the sense of place, and Simon’s epilepsy are woven through the work.

 

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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. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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