Past Continuous by Tony Bayliss

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Past Continuous by Tony Bayliss

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book centres around a troubled, young man called Matthew. He takes a desperate course of action which has tragic but also surprising results; for his parents and also for a rather enigmatic 'acquaintance' called Sophie.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 304 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Sparkling Books
ISBN: 978-1907230172

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The author's note tells the reader that this book was inspired by the suicide of the author's son.

Chapter 1 opens with the reader being in no doubt that the schoolboy Matthew has a knack with computers. He's a bit of a whiz-kid. He's also shy and tongue-tied which makes him a bit of a loner as well. He stands out at school for all the wrong reasons but he's coping with it - just. And early on in the book we meet Sophie. She's a big part of this book. She's around Matthew's age. She is bright and clever. Her adoptive parents would probably say that she's too clever for her own good.

Matthew leaves school and goes to university. He tries desperately to fit in, be a normal student. There's some awkward episodes in bars and clubs as he attempts to be Jack-the-lad. Exasperated, we see him falling back on what he knows best. Study. Computer study. He's coasting along in that department. Then, suddenly things take a strange turn. He meets a girl in some bar and next minute Matthew notices that this teenage beautician ... shrugged off punches like a seasoned heavyweight boxer. And now we're into the story proper, as it were. Strange things are happening all over the place. But why?

To complicate matters even further, Matthew has some issues on the domestic scene to deal with. Like the small matter of his parents' break-up, for one thing. Oh, and the fact that he can't stand his dad's new girlfriend. It's doing his head in, as he might say himself. His saving grace, however, is his work. He loves it. He sleeps and eats it. But, he cannot talk about it - to anyone.

And so the reader enters into a world where the computer is king. I must admit, I wasn't expecting this turn of events. Whether that's a good thing or not, well, I'm not sure. I was simply happy to be drawn into the story - up to a point. I did find some parts a bit fanciful. And all the computer jargon, while necessary, did go on a bit. It all builds up to the fact that something dreadful happens to Matthew but his presence is still very much felt. His brain appears to be in some sort of overdrive for a lot of the time. He appears a little manic saying or thinking or even scribbling down such thoughts as We are little cogs in the great machine and Maybe life is just one huge conspiracy.

I found Bayliss' style fluent and easy to read. The presentation on the page is also good. There's some welcome, quite sparky dialogue here and there, particularly between Matthew's parents as they try to come to terms with a tragic event. But some of the dialogue I found a bit stilted, a bit pedantic, a bit wordy. A few characters don't really seem to earn their place in the book - the elderly landlady, for example.

There are some flourishes of lovely creative writing but overall, it didn't really grab me. But for all those computer anoraks out there, this book will probably be right up your (cyber) street.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then try Someone Else's Son by Sam Hayes.

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Buy Past Continuous by Tony Bayliss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Past Continuous by Tony Bayliss at


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