A big truck did it, and drove away: Took the phone cable right off the side of the house. That was the Thursday before. A week later and there was still no cable. But the world didn’t end for you, and it didn’t for me. It was just the phone line that was down. Eight days later, and we’re re-cabled and ready to go, but have learnt something about being cut off, and not cut off.
You’ll know, if you’re a regular reader of the blog, that I make a point of offering my own publications for purchase from time to time, but this week I’m going to push a little harder.
It’s not for anything I’ve written though, nor published. Despite being an aficionado of the short story form I do read novels too! And two novels I’ve recently read, and for the second time, are from the writer Jane Fathers Davidson.
Jane, who currently lives in north Cumbria, describes herself at the back of A Place Beyond Hearing, as ‘an adoptee and retired addictions therapist’.
Jane’s novel draws on her experience to tell the story of Robbie. It’s a hard-edged read, and for one who has worked with people living difficult and self-defeating lives, it’s perhaps extra-hard, because it is so true to life.
Set in Canada and England it sets out the struggles of Robbie, a sixty year old runaway and alcoholic, as she learns to understand the forces that have driven her, and to come to terms with them. There are times in the early part of the story when you almost want to turn your back on Robbie, it’s such a tough tale, and some of the other characters do! But as the novel progresses, and the size of the metaphorical mountain she has to climb becomes more apparent, and more threatening, you find yourself drawn to rooting for her, and drawn to caring. I’ve written about three tissue weepies before, but this is an altogether more dry-eyed story: painful, unflinching, but ultimately cathartic in its assertion of the value, and values of human life, and love.
When you get to the end, you’ll feel you’ve earned it; and it’s the sort of ending you need to feel you’ve earned.
By the same author, and drawing on the same understanding of human motives, for good and ill, is Blood Pudding. Jane, in a back cover blurb calls this a ‘funny, traditional sleuth driven romp with a surfeit of dogs.’ There are just about the right number of dogs for me, plus chickens, sheep, and a herd of cows (bulls, according to the character who gets chased by them). It’s a murder mystery set in the northern reaches of Cumbria alongside Hadrian’s Wall, in which a retired police detective tracks down the serial killer of several neighbours and friends. Told with panache and quiet comedy, it never quite loses touch with the insights of a retired therapist, which enable the author to furnish the story with a fistful of intriguing and bizarre characters, all of whom, at one point or another become the objects of our suspicions!
Available in paperback, or for Kindle, these two novels are available on Amazon, and would make great Christmas presents, or suitable indulgences for a fireside read – perhaps with a whisky and water – as the year turns autumnal. They are both, in their different ways, really good reads. You can find them here.