Posted by: billpurdue | November 3, 2009

73 More for kids and grown-ups

NoddyIt’s funny, isn’t it – it was only last week that I was writing about  a new Winnie the Pooh book and now, blow me if another old childhood favourite (though not one of mine), hasn’t been resurrected. There’s a new Noddy story just out: Noddy and  the Farmyard Muddle[HarperCollins Children’s Books, £7.99 978-0007318018 ] There are some new characters, including Stumpy the Elephant and The Bull, but those golliwogs are notable by their absence due to the term being now widely regarded as racist.

The author of the new story is Sophie Smallwood, the grand- daughter of Enid Blyton. It’s the first new Noddy book since 1963. Noddy has been around for 60 years, the first book having been published in 1949. I expect the publishers are hoping to attract as many adults reminiscing about their childhood as they are new young Noddy fans. I’m beginning to wonder if there are any other anniversaries I may have missed.

ringroadBack to adult stuff now and I expect like me you have come across a lot of novels that claim to be funny – laugh out loud funny – and prove to be very disappointing. Well, I’ve just read a book that says it’s funny and I really did laugh out loud – at times – and often enough to make me continue reading to the end, though I didn’t read it just for the laughs. Ring Road by Ian Sansom [HarperPerennial £7.99 978-0007156542] is quite a long novel about life in a small to medium sized town, the name of which we never get to know. There are several characters to whom we are gradually introduced throughout the book: first, there’s Davey Quinn, the seventh son of a seventh son, who has just returned to the town after an absence of 20 years to find it much changed, but populated with a lot of the people he used to know. There’s Francie McGinn, the minister of a church called “The People’s Fellowship”, whose pure thoughts sometimes give way to impure ones and eventually lead to his divorce from Cheryth and marriage to singer Bobbie Dylan. There’s Frank Gilbey, the entrepreneur, who got himself elected to the council so that he could influence planning decisions and turn them to his advantage. There’s Colin Rimmer, editor of the local paper called “The Impartial Recorder” who started out wanting to drag the paper into the modern age, but ended up with one that was substantially the same at is was 50 years ago. He’s undeterred: he has his sights on bringing down Frank Gilbey and moving on to greater things. The central “character” though is a building: “The Quality Hotel”, once a thriving venue in the centre of town, now a dilapidated shell and it’s what happens to the building that is the central theme of the book.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons; Ian Sansom has the ability to describe the lives of ordinary people and make them interesting, fascinating even. I dare bet that you will find a character in there which reminds you of someone you know (of) in your town. It’s a cleverly crafted story, but if you like action in your novels, then this is not for you. We get fascinating descriptions of the lives, the likes and dislikes, the aspirations of many different characters from all walks of small(ish) town life and at the end of each chapter, you realise that things have changed and the story has moved on. It was only at the end that I was a little disappointed, but I won’t give away what actually happens to the Quality Hotel.

Apart from this book, Iam Sansom is also responsible for the “Mobile Library” detective series, described as “cripplingly funny” by one critic.

By the way, at the back of the book, you’ll find an index (!!), but also a small section entitled “If you loved this, you’ll like…” a sort of list of suggestions for reading in a similar vein.

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