Monday 3 April 2017

The Man Who Loved Islands by David F. Ross

Published by Orenda Books on April 20, 2017

The Man Who Loved Islands is the final book in David F. Ross’s trilogy following book one, The Last Days of Disco and book two, The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas. I have thoroughly enjoyed each book in the series and each book has been a little bit better than the one before it. I wasn’t expecting to, given my feelings on a series I enjoy coming to an end is not generally a good one, but yes the final book in this trilogy was my favourite.

The story sees childhood friends Bobby and Joey reunite after several years of no communication. Though they were once inseparable, life has not been kind to them in recent years and they are both living lives filled with regrets. In fact neither of them are particularly living their lives at all, instead wallowing and drowning in self-pity. Things have changed a lot since they were partners in the music industry. After some encouragement and white lies from a mutual friend, The Man Who Loved Islands see the two of them reunited as they pay homage to Gary, Bobby’s brother who passed away years ago but never got the send-off he deserved.

In amongst the broad Scottish dialect and humour is a touching story of friends growing older and feeling regretful about the people they have become. It was really fascinating to see how life had changed for Bobby and Joey as they were almost shadows of their former selves plagued with depression and thoughts of what they could have done better, of lost friends and missing family. The author develops his characters wonderfully and realistically and there is a strong sense of true human emotion about this book, a frank and honest representation of the feelings people experience growing older and the struggle to come to terms with a new type of life where good health is dwindling, good times are less and less frequent and family and friends become out of touch.

I was moved by this book more than I expected as it had a different vibe to it than the previous two books in the trilogy. Despite that, there is still a great nostalgic feel to it through music and culture. I love all the music mentions, bands and artists that are before my time but virtually all recognisable to me as the soundtrack I was brought up with from my parents. Songs which were reminiscent of both Bobby and Joey’s memories, and in The Man Who Loved Islands their memories seemed more significant than ever as they battled with their past regrets.

The first two parts of this book see Bobby and Joey almost living in the past whereas the next two saw them moving forward with their lives. The narrative often goes back and forth in time throughout this book with flashback chapters of some of the happier and/or impactful moments in the characters’ lives. These were easy to keep track of and I enjoyed the insight they gave into the characters’ lives especially given that they offered something new to what we have learnt about Bobby and Joey in the other two books in the trilogy. I love how the author crafts his characters. I don't think there are many authors whose books I could pick up a year apart and still remember so much about each main character and also some of the minor characters too. There is so much depth to them, through all their experiences in life, and somehow they feel stronger and more real people than fictional ones.

The Man Who Loved Islands is highly engaging and both a fun and moving read. Chapters are rich with emotion and humour, the two of them often interlinking and this is one thing I liked in particular about this book. There is that typically sweary Scottish twang to every sentence which builds up the location and the storytelling rather than detracting from it. I especially love seeing this come out in their dialogue as I no longer spend my time deciphering it as it comes much more naturally to me now! There’s quite a contrast in the two halves of this book and whilst the first half is more about Bobby and Joey looking back on their lives, the second half is more fun-filled and action-packed. As always, chaos and drama are never far behind when Bobby and Joey are in town. The Man Who Loved Islands is ultimately a heart-warming and hopeful tale of music and friendship and the entertainment value when the two of them co-exist really does raise the roof…

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