Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant
Nine-year-old Skid Beaumont lives with his three brothers, father Alrick and mother Valerie in the swamps beyond the New Orleans city limits. Life is hard and home is a rundown shack with no running water but they're only there temporarily; a 'temporarily' that is rather long-term. Alrick moved them from their nice home in New Orleans because the land was cheap and soon the city would build out to envelop them. Years later they're still waiting for that to happen. Life isn’t exactly mundane though; there are rumours that when Skid's brother Frico draws left-handed, strange things happen.
|Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A wonderful book based around the Louisiana swamps for all those who never thought they'd read a wonderful book based around the Louisiana swamps. Touching, funny, simply told and yet deceptively deep, although we may not want them living next door, the Beaumonts are a family from whom we'd like to hear more.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 300||Date: May 2013|
|Publisher: Alma Books Ltd|
Skid Beaumont first saw the light of day in an award-nominated short story by advertising director and former teacher Roland Watson-Grant. After a little stretching and remodelling, Sketcher (in reference to Skid's oddly artistic brother) is Roland's highly original, refreshing debut novel. How original and refreshing? Think of a southern states' Cider with Rosie written by someone who has captured the essence of a more ethnically attuned Mark Twain; yes it's very, very good!
It’s written in Skid's own words, including the accent but appropriately rather than jarringly, giving us the sense of a child in a world many of us wouldn't be able to access in any other way. It may be set in the last quarter of the 20th century but in the Beaumonts' world Christianity is tinged with folk memory and accompanied by spirits of both malevolence and benevolence. As for daily life, poverty haunts them continually to the extent that birthdays consist of corn bread and the bumps. Although the boys still have a childhood of fun, scrapes and happy memory-building, it's not what they or their mother would choose for themselves. In fact Valerie totally resents it, feeling Alrick tricked her into it in the first place.
Roland is a writer who really understands people and converts the soul of his characters into words that make us want to engage emotionally. Skid is unforgettable; cheeky, no goody-goody and as much a normal lad as he can be in a family where everyone is trying to hold on while fraying around the edges. The supporting cast also seems to take our memories hostage beyond the last page. As an example I offer you Squash and Broadway. (This is a place where everyone's childhood nicknames stick harder than anything written on a birth certificate.) These two may be bullies and Skid's childhood nemeses but slowly the author enables us to understand why. Although we may not condone their behaviour, it's fully comprehensible to the extent that we feel they need a hug. (Or is that just me?)
As we read we fall into the enjoyable rhythm of Skid's narrative and assume that this story will amble along just showing us every-day life and the fight of hope against experience… or at least I did. How wrong I was! Yes we learn about Skid's early adolescence, his life at school, his first love and struggle for survival as the youngest child but there's so much more. Suddenly we're hit mid-amble by a game changer as this gently wise fictional biography develops drama, twists and some well executed nasty shocks turning a good read into a face appendage that’s not being taken away from the nose till it's finished. This is the sort novel that even more experienced authors dream of writing at any time, let alone for a debut.
If you've enjoyed this, then we also heartily recommend The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant at Amazon.com.
Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant is in the Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2013.
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