This was a complete treat. This was sent to me by the author, Andy Melrose, who also happens to be a friend and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Winchester. An experienced writer for children and on writing for children, this is Andy’s first novel for adults. The bulk of the action takes place over a single day, a day which begins with the novel’s central character, Michael (single, happy and in his mid forties) waking up with a hangover (it is his birthday). By the end of the day, he has been re-united with a daughter he never knew he had, become a grandfather, been re-united with his closest childhood friend (who had been presumed dead) and fallen out of love and back in love again. And lots of other things as well.
The book is about a lot of things. It’s about memory, truth, guilt, change, family and about how we are made up of the stories of our past that we carry with us. We cannot escape our past and should embrace it, rather than deny it. But most of all it’s a novel that declares its faith in humanity and the potential of human relationships to triumph over any adversity. So even in its bleakest moments, such as incidents of racist and homophobic violence, it reamins a startlingly optimistic novel. And the stylish writing sweeps you along effortlessly, whilst engaging you fully in the narrative. I remember as a teenager discovering the writing of Barry Hines and marvelling at how such fine writing could be so easy to read. And I felt something similar reading Palace Pier Blues.