This is an ordinary book where nothing extraordinary happens – life just happens. Probably not the best way to start a book review but actually I mean neither of these things in the negative
James Runcie has written a book using the basis of family and all its beautiful moments and some of its uglier ones as well. The book opens rather startlingly when Jack Henderson is involved in a car accident. A young man walks out in front of his car with the intent of ending his life. Jack cannot do anything to prevent what happens, but he somehow gets caught up with this boy’s family and attends the funeral and meets his girlfriend Krystyna. Suddenly Jack’s life changes. He no longer thinks of just his work.
His younger brother Doug on the other hand, is probably heading for his own crash. His drinking is taking over his life, and he risks everything he has to be with a woman he knows nothing about and who seems to be doing all the controlling whilst Doug does all the running. His work and his marriage suddenly turn into a downward spiral and he seeks solace at his family home.
The eldest Angus, has it all and then it is taken away from him suddenly and unexpectedly when he loses his job. But his strength is his family and he makes plans with his wife for them to embark on a new adventure. This could be all about to change though, as the eldest can suddenly find himself with new responsibilities which might keep him nearer to home.
Their childhood family home, East Fortune always brings them together when times are hard and difficult. There they revert back to children, to the bickering they had as such and the need to be centre of attention for one of them. They all seek reassurance from their father, who is disappointed in their actions and never seems to give them what they need. Their mother is the peace keeper and wants a perfect family life. But for her as well, she is going to find that this comes at a cost and now broken marriages, divorce, affairs and younger girlfriends, living away from the place you were born are actually all part of what makes a family. What brings them together is a tragedy but after this has happened their lives will move on yet again.
This is a very male dominated book, and I was intrigued by the characters as such, I instantly disliked Doug something about him grated, whether it was the drinking or just simply how he spoke to everyone else. There was nothing appealing about him, which made me question all the more how he ever managed to embark on an affair with a woman far glamorous than him. Angus is rather in the back seat in terms of the brothers. In some ways quite forgettable. Jack on the other hand is not. On the face of it, a divorced man in his fifties who is absorbed by his work, but actually has some sort of passion that he needs to feed and which is brought out in the most unlikely of places. As I read this book, I kept thinking about how the opening events were affecting Jack.
And so the book ends, at just under 250 pages this is a short book but one which strikes a chord. So much goes on in families, that it is all rather contained and within it they make good stories. A book with nothing and everything contained within the pages. An interesting read.
A rather different book of choice for me and the reason for the choice was I am attending Guildford Book Festival Readers Day on Saturday and one of the authors is James Runcie. Part of the day is a discussion similar to a book group with two authors, (you had to select authors in preference upon booking) one of the authors that I have been given is… James Runcie. The festival choose the book for you and……East Fortune was the choice so here I am. It was certainly a book I would never have read and as I read his newest work, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death earlier this year I am intrigued by his writing.
I admit to being a bit teary eyed with this book, the funeral scenes were handled beautifully and whilst I am still dealing with the grief associated with losing someone in my family it was still very raw. For me the book reiterated the value of family and the strength within them. Something that as you start to lose people, for whatever reason you draw on more and more.
A very different book to Sidney Chambers and I am now interested in some of his other work and see how that compares to the two books I have read. Plus I am looking forward to hearing him talk.