Publication Date: 13th June 2019
I have been following Brian Bilston over on my personal Twitter account for a good while now and I have always loved his poems. He is great at reading the mood and putting out a little poem to put a smile on people’s faces. As most of you will already know, I like to occasionally pen a few lines myself, nothing on the scale or quality of Brian’s poems but it’s something I find satisfaction and enjoyment in. Anyway, what I’m getting at in a roundabout way is that I was excited to get my hands on a proof of Brian’s book as I knew I stood a good chance of really enjoying it.
And enjoy it I did!
It’s the start of a new year and Brian is hoping to gain some clarity and perspective in his tricky life. He decides he will write a poem a day for a year as salvation from his problems. His wife has left him for a man who can do no wrong, he is trying to forge a relationship with his teenage son who he seems to consistently disappoint. He is drowning at work in a sea of management speak and indecipherable spreadsheets, barely keeping his head above water.
His saving grace is the poetry club he belongs to, but even that is proving to be difficult to navigate as he clashes with poet extraordinaire Toby Salt. Toby is on the up and up in the poetry world and has even achieved the holy grail of having his work published. Toby is not only Brian’s nemesis in terms of poetry, he also has his eye on Liz, a woman who Brian has a growing affection for.
But when Toby goes missing and Brian is firmly in the frame, he must think on his feet and deduce what has happened to Toby in order to clear his name.
This book was such a treat to read as I knew it would be. Brian is such a great character, he’s, dare I say it, a bit hapless but entirely loveable. There were times when I was cringing at some of the things he says and does, particularly involving his interactions with Liz. You can see as an outside observer that he is unintentionally pushing her away but he’s oblivious to it. Poor Brian!
The relationship he has with Toby Salt is wryly humourous, I can fully imagine how annoying and insufferable someone like Toby could be. The one person in the poetry group who is successful, and feels it necessary to critique the others work and belittle them, particularly our lovely Brian.
In fact, all of Brian’s relationships are very engaging. The sometimes faltering bond between him and his son is so touching. Brian is just trying his best in the shadow of Stuart, his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, a man who seems too good to be true. It seems as if Brian is always swimming against the tide.
For me the crowning glory in the book, (and the real draw for me if I’m honest) is the actual poetry. I am in awe of the skill and wit Brian incorporates when he is crafting his poems. I could read them over and over again and still take such pleasure in them. I was constantly taking pictures of the poems and sending them to my Husband. There were a few times that I wanted to stand up on the bus and just say ”’Ere, shut it everyone! listen to this, it’s brilliant!”. Alas, I’m not brave enough!
Another great thing about this book is how it makes poetry so accessible. I don’t know about you but there are certain types of poetry that go straight over my head, there can often be a slight apprehension around it, at least it feels that way for me. However, the poetry in this book I feel would be appreciated and understood by everyone. Although it is so sharp and cleverly constructed it is still packed full of humour and relatability.
I saw Brian Bilston put a tweet out on the day he went to record the audiobook, saying that he was going to have to come up with interesting ways to read the poems, given that some of them are pictorial and rely on a visual image to make sense. For example:
I think I need to listen to the audiobook now to see just what ingenius ways were invented to get around this issue!
All in all this book was a joy, it has heart and emotion but isn’t too deep. It has wry humour and clever poetry to make you chuckle (or in my case, make you think ‘I wish I could write poetry like that!’).
If you love wordplay and poetry you can relate to and absorb then I would most heartily recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Thank you to Camilla Ellworthy and the publisher for my proof copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx