Just finished the excellent debut novel by Barney Norris.
‘Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain’ (Transworld) is set in and around Salisbury, Wilts, and is a very readable composition. Norris weaves together the lives of seemingly ordinary people – a flower-seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a widower and a security guard. We see how each of them deals with their own very different tragedies – perhaps not so tragic in the great scheme of things – but vital to them as it moulds their lives.
It’s refreshing to see five separate, but interesting lives, gradually intertwine, albeit in unexpected ways. It’s not a heavy story and is certainly worth a re-read even if it’s only certain stories. Highly recommended and a great debut novel.
Just completed another tome in my ever-growing collection – A God in Ruins (Black Swan) – another of Kate Atkinson’s novels. It was a Costa Novel Award winner for 2015. This I enjoyed much more that her Life After Life. It traces the life of one of her characters from her previous book but this time I felt the narrative rolled out much better – it’s even a novel I’d read again if I ever have the time. So many of the people she portrays are ones I certainly recognise, ones that I’ve met over the years. Worth saying that the novel stands on its own, so if you’ve not read Life After Life it won’t matter.
This week I’m celebrating the life and work of my friend and mentor Rudi Holzapfel.
Rudi died of cancer on 6 February 2005 and it seems the time has passed so quickly. He was a wonderful, caring and talented man. I first met him when we worked together in a bookshop – me because I was just starting my career, Rudi because he needed to work while preparing his PhD on the works of James Clarence Mangan.
I had never met anyone who said they were a poet – writer, artist, musician, yes – but never a poet. I came to know him very well both at work and outside when we were able to escape the draconian clutches of the people who ran the shop. I was fascinated by how and what he wrote and fortunate to witness his work first hand when he wrote a poem ‘The Employee’ based on my work in the store. I still have the original written on a sheet of brown wrapping paper we used to pack piles of books for the students. It was published in the The Penguin Book of Irish Verse (1970) and has even been set to music, though how and to what end escapes me.
I moved on to a new job and a new world and Rudi moved away, but not before he persuaded me that I could write and indeed that should write. He mentored me, critique my writing and pushed me to that goal. As I browse through the pile of memorabilia he gave me with the words: ‘Keep this safe. One day I might be famous’, and through my collection of his published works I’m saddened that such a great talent has gone for good. But he leaves behind a wealth of wonderful material. A list of books and audio readings by Rudi can be found at rudiholzpafel.com