Monday 5 December 2016

Reviewed: Reunited by Daniel Gothard

TITLE: Reunited
AUTHOR: Daniel Gothard
PUBLISHER: Urbane Publications

PUBLICATION DATE: October 6, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

1992, and Ben Tallis is coming to terms with the recent death of his father. His ability to cope isn't helped by the fact he's secretly in love with one of his best friends. At least keeping a daily journal helps him make sense of events, and he believes it's the perfect preparation for his plan to one day become a successful journalist.

2012 and Ben has achieved his career ambition - he's a highly respected journalist and is engaged to a hardworking and ambitious lawyer. But this seemingly 'perfect' relationship is fraught with problems. Ben mentions in passing to his editor he has received an invitation to a 20 year school reunion but doesn't want to go. His editor however smells a great feature article and insists Ben returns home, faces his past - including his secret teenage yearning - and writes a feature on how much we change, and yet in so many ways stay the same.

As Ben reluctantly re-engages with his past he soon comes to realise that we can never run from the truth...or who we truly are.

Reunited is the second book I have read by Daniel Gothard and both are sharp, witty and entertaining reads. Reunited is my favourite of the two as I was quickly engrossed in the story of a man who has been invited to his school reunion. Just those two words send a shiver up my spine and I was looking forward to seeing how things would unfold for Ben, especially the further into the story I was when I read about the difficult time he’d had at school.

The book switches in time from the early 1990s to 2012. We read from both first person and a journal Ben had kept for many years as a journalistic practise, something which has become his career and unfortunately for Ben, is the reason he has to attend his school reunion. I really enjoyed how we could read from both timeframes and get to see the differences between Ben’s old life and how he is now. The changes between someone from school to someone twenty years after is noticeable and I was fascinated seeing how Ben, Ross, Emma and Catrina were at school in comparison to how they were when some of them met up for the reunion. Catching up with people at a high school reunion reminded me of this generation of searching for people you didn’t particularly like on Facebook just to see what they’re doing now. It can waste away hours of your days and I felt like Ben could probably relate to how cringeworthy that is!

With switching between past Ben and present Ben, we really get to see the tough and mad times he and best mate Ross endured at school and develop an understanding of why they, more than most, were unsure about being at the reunion. I kind of wondered why they were going at all really. Even though Ben as a journalist was there to write about it, he seemed to be sacrificing his relationship to do so. Even though he has argued with his fianc√©e, and she has supposedly left him, he still seemed to be obsessing over a girl that was going to be at the reunion. This obsession is just one of the many reasons the idea of a school reunion is awful to me, but I did enjoy reading about one knowing it wasn’t mine!

The author really nailed the dread of a looming school reunion and I could feel and understand the apprehension Ben felt as well as the awkwardness at reuniting with his old friends. I would have liked to have seen the reunion pushed a bit more though. The book is more about the lead up to the event rather than the event itself, which realistically portrays how people’s worries about things can sometimes turn into nothing – like all the fuss about the school reunion was a bit unfounded really. Even though I did find this realistic, I missed some of the drama that we saw in the sections from their time at school. This could have been a sign of their development as people but really Ben, Ross and Cat still all appeared to be acting like teenagers in the present day anyway.

I did like Ben’s character. He was a bit of a car crash waiting to happen but this was entertaining. I could definitely feel his pain right the way through his school life to the reunion. This book does touch on bullying but not in a conventional way as the victims have their own way of dealing with things, shall we say. I found the antics of Ben and Ross funny and their interactions amusing. Their friendship in both sections of the book was lovely to read with warmth and humour amongst the typical banter and mishaps involved in a male friendship. They didn’t mature much over the years, even if they felt otherwise, but in a way it was refreshing and appealing to see that they had come through being bullied at school okay.

Once I picked up Reunited, I couldn’t put it down. The author’s writing style is engaging and the way Ben tells the story involves the reader more. He had me thinking about how characters from his school days could have changed come 2012 and how my own school reunion would turn out – thankfully it will be many years away and I won’t be going! I felt like aspects of the story could have been developed further such as both Ross and Ben’s own relationships and I think I enjoyed the parts of the book more when they were at school as the author really well builds up their school life from the bullies to the romance and friendship and the chaos that went with it all. Overall this is another bold and entertaining book from Daniel Gothard and I’m looking forward to reading more in future.

About the Author

My name is Daniel David Gothard.

I have a CertHE and Masters degree in creative writing from Ruskin College, Oxford and Bath Spa University. I have been published in anthologies and literary journals in the UK and abroad, including "Eight Hours" (Legend Press) and the prestigious "The View From Here".

My first novel - "Friendship and Afterwards" (Yolk Publishing) - was published in 2014 to critical acclaim and a People's Book Prize nomination.

In 2015 my second novel - "Simon says" (Urbane Publications) was a WHSmith's Christmas and New Year promotion bestseller.

My third novel - "Reunited" (also published by Urbane Publications) - was released in October 2016.

Both "Simon says" and "Reunited" have been nominated for RNA awards.

I am also an arts correspondent for After Nyne Magazine.

My commissioned short story - "Curtains and Lights" - is due to be published in the February 2017 colour supplement edition of The Oxford Times.

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