Book No 24 (2015) : Shoes for Anthony

anthonyEmma Kennedy is an attractive blonde, born in Corby and educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. As far as I can tell, she has never been an eleven year-old boy. Which makes her first fiction novel for adults quite an achievement; Anthony’s schoolboy perspective is insightful, sensitive and amusing.

In WW2 Wales, Anthony’s Mam has more to worry about and pay for than shoes for her youngest child. With her pitworker husband and two sons, as well as daughter Bethan, plus Anthony and herself, there are a lot of mouths to feed on wartime rations. So Ant has to make do with hand-me-down wellies which make him smell like a ‘mouldy log.’ But Anthony doesn’t mind too much, although he does hoard a picture of his dream brogues. Times are tough but Ant has his mates, a group of lads from the village with whom he spends time scrapping, hanging out in the den, climbing, exploring and getting into boy scrapes. But everything changes the day that a German plane crashes into the mountain overlooking Treherbert. Its occupants are all dead when the villagers arrive. But they soon discover there was a survivor.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from the book as the only other thing I have read of Kennedy’s is the hilarious ‘The Tent, The Bucket and Me.’ ‘Shoes for Anthony‘ is quite different. The author herself describes it as a thriller, but that is not immediately apparent from the relatively slow start. However, the pace gradually picks up until one minute I was laughing and the next crying. This was a genuinely moving read, beautifully recounted and with a very special human touch. I thoroughly recommend it.

Even if your usual style is more Givenchy than galoshes, you are guaranteed to be captivated by Anthony and his wartime community.

Book No 18 (2015) : The Tent, The Bucket and Me

the tent 2A few months ago, a lovely friend of  mine had a great idea for a fun night; DIY Desert Island Discs. Using the popular Radio 4 programme as inspiration, we guests all arrived armed with our favourite 3 music tracks, a luxury and a book to take with us to our imaginary desert island. One of the guests cited Emma Kennedy’s ‘The Tent, The Bucket and Me’ as her book choice. I’d never heard of it but she was so enthusiastic about it that I downloaded it on to my Kindle.

Autobiographical, the book recounts the exploits of Emma Kennedy and her parents, Brenda and Tony, during the 1970s. Whilst holidaying in the UK and further afield, the author’s family falls prey to a bewildering number of unlikely mishaps, the recounting of which lends a kind of slapstick to the anecdotes. The Holiday Gods are always on their tail.

Be warned – this is a seriously funny book. One of those that you can’t read in a public place or when you are drinking cola, for fear of snorting it out of your nose when you laugh.  Emma Kennedy captures the scenarios brilliantly, usually putting herself at the centre of the shenanigans, with a healthy dollop of self-deprecation. I am not a fan of camping and this book totally vindicates my opposition to sleeping in a damp tent, eating Spam and playing gin rummy whilst trying to ignore the gang of rowdy teenagers smoking hash outside. Whether you camp or not, anyone who has had a disaster on holiday will sympathise with the Kennedys.

And in case you are interested, my Desert Island choices were:

Music:
Can’t Take my Eyes Off You : Engelbert Humperdinck
Headlights : Eminem feat. Nate Reuss
Luxury : Clinique ‘Aromatics’ perfume
Book : A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth