W by John Banks
|W by John Banks|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A compelling tale that crosses the centuries with a cast of characters on intriguing journeys - W is an ambitious and highly readable tale.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2018|
|Publisher: 819 Publishing|
On the slopes of Mt Hood in Oregon, an 1000-year old Viking is discovered frozen - three thousand miles further west than any previously known Viking exploration. Josh Kinninger is inspired by the Viking discovery - three personal catastrophes having left him angry, unmoored and with his world in turmoil. Beginning a journey westward, he's filled with a desire to wreak vengeance on the individuals he finds morally corrupt.
As the tale of how the Viking came to Oregon is revealed, it also becomes clear that Josh isn't the only Kinninger who ran away frm his problems by heading west, with his ancester Jefferson undertaking a journey by wagon train, desperate to escape the violint strife preceding the Civil War; and Jefferson's namesake descendant, one hundred years later, begins his own journey west, leaving the Jim Crow South to make a new life in San Francisco.
Writing a novel must, I imagine, be rather a daunting experience - plotting out the journeys of characters, finding suitable settings and stories, and doing so in ways that can make them interesting and engaging for a contemporary audience to relate to. It's rather staggering then, that in W, John Banks chooses to send the reader headfirst into various different time periods and settings, and engages them with characters who, whether leading the plot or only appearing briefly, all have compelling stories to tell. They're a strange group, but the author ensures that they're engaging - allowing the reader to swiftly form empathic bonds that keep them tied to the pages throughout.
The direct narrative style that the author employs works well - pulling the reader into the various threads of the story with immediacy - particularly clever given the way the author, particularly in the earlier parts of the book, moves around in terms of time periods and characters he's exploring. This did, initially, leave me with some confusion as to which character was the focus of each section, but this issue is soon eliminated as the reader moves forward and gets to know the characters better. The author has a strong knack for swiftly creating a sense of place and period, and this allows him to keep the focus on the story - weaving narrative threads together into a conclusion that's both intelligent and satisfying. Overall, it's an enjoyable and assured read - compelling and clever. As mentioned, I did struggle with some aspects of the way the story is formatted, but aside from that, it's a very impressive achievement indeed.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy - for further reading I suggest Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - another book that switches between time periods, but keeps the reader hooked with compelling characters and narrative drive.
You can read more about John Banks here
You can read more book reviews or buy W by John Banks at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy W by John Banks at Amazon.com.
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