The Making of Mr Bolsover by Cornelius Medvei

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The Making of Mr Bolsover by Cornelius Medvei

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Perhaps there's too much of the political biography this comedy pretends to be and not quite enough dirt, but this book will have an appeal a lot further than the boundaries of Lewes, Sussex.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099548690

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Meet Andrew Lynch. He's a graduate civil servant, then he isn't. He's married, then he isn't. He's a librarian, then he isn’t. He starts, of all things, to live in a handmade camp in the Sussex countryside, and gets a job writing nature notes for a local magazine – until it's clear he's shooting, killing and eating too many of his subjects for his audience's tastes. He turns his efforts to writing politicised letters to the local newspaper, where his nephew is a jobbing hack, which inspires further, more campaigning activities. Yes, it seems that Andrew Lynch's path to the top is foretold – but his fate is most definitely anything but natural…

Looking back I'm aware of putting things in that plot summary that are too close to the midway point for my tastes, but please take that as a signal that even with its brevity, this book has a lot in it. Of course, the story isn't purely as linear, as off/on, as I make out. There's a lot too regarding the nephew, Martin Cooper – who is called by his surname so as to not keep reminding us of one of the guys in OMD. This Cooper moves out of his parents (from where he used to steal to spend time with his uncle, even breaking into the lido and having a midnight swim) and into the vacated house, as Lynch himself goes wild. The absurdity of his ideas at rustication is nicely wrought – as are the times he criminally returns to help himself to what he left behind.

But to keep with the theme of what is in this book, there is a little too much of one thing – self-awareness, and internal meta-styled discussion. Even with Lynch being a Wildman of the Weald he keeps an astute, political mind, and can pronounce about Lord Salisbury with the best, there too is a little too much of this book comparing itself to past political biographies. Similarly, it likes too to point up the potential unreliability of Cooper as a source – even though this reads very current it dresses itself up as a looking-back-over-a-distance that must be from some time in the future.

But this short title has many merits. For one, those in and around Lewes will just have to lap it up, in the same way, that, say, Yorkshiremen and –women fought for Burley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker, if only to see just what happens on the streets and fields Medvei mentions. For me, the prime appeal – and definitely the intent – was to provide a fine look at a distinctive British whimsy, which deliberately or not pitches the book into a small but delightfully formed genre, that of those picking apart our societies' absurdities and peccadilloes through an extreme rural take on it. That's not to say you feel the grubbiness of Lynch's dens on every page; instead, this is a bright, warm and varied read that could have been even tighter, but still packs in the unusual and unexpected.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For me, that aforementioned genre is typified by Doppler by Erlend Loe. We think you'll also enjoy Caroline: A Mystery by Cornelius Medvei.

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