I often find it hard to post a book review, without posting spoilers, but hopefully this review of Them Feltwell Boys, by David Bailey will be enough to persuade you to grab a copy of the book but not ruin the story for you.
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If women are so much trouble, Ray, why do you always want more than one?
Parallel narratives of a schoolboy’s developing first love affair and his career and marriage unravelling 25 years later eventually converge at a school reunion.
Ray Roden is a Fenland schoolboy in trouble with teachers and friends as well as women after his boys’ grammar merges with the girls’ high. He has already met Tina: that girl would give me some of the best moments of my life. And the worst.
Ray Roden is an insurance executive travelling the Caribbean in trouble with his job, his wife (one of them Roper girls), his children – and still women: this last ten days I’ve been kicked out of their beds by my wife, my girlfriend and a … another one. And then there is Hurricane Martin, ‘storm of the century’, heading straight for his home in Puerto Rico.
Alongside humorous scenes in Ray’s unenlightened development from schoolboy clumsiness to mid-life crisis mismanagement are grimmer adult ones including adultery, alcohol abuse, physical and sexual assault. Will he emerge from his school reunion with more than one, one, ‘the one’ or no woman at all?
This is what I would call a gritty and sometimes frustrating story. Not because of the author, but because you are following a man, the protagonist, Ray, through his life and often a trail of bad decisions as he goes.
I must confess, I did read the end chapters before I started, I do do that, and I know it’s probably frowned upon, but what can I say? I have ADHD and I like to be in control from the start. But actually, reading the end didn’t give me much of a clue as to the story and how it would unfold.
You really do get a flavour of the main character and his life, and things that have happened to him and his background, which helps you see why his life has shaped up to be the way it has and why he is frustratingly, sometimes the way he is.
It’s a very gritty and realistic book, and the author really does pull you into the story and along for the ride as Ray faces relationship disasters, makes life mistakes and faces the consquences of his actions, or sometimes refuses to admit that he might be the problem.
This isn’t my usual style of book, but it did intrigue me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I did want to grab Ray and give him a good talking to at certain points and tell him what I thought of him.
If you enjoy real life and aren’t a person who likes fluffy romance with happy endings, and prefers something that is more based on people and the mistakes they make and the lives they live, then this is definitely the book for you and I would recommend it. I read it over a couple of days and will probably read it again. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it despite the occasional wince at Ray and his life choices.
You can order your copy of Them Feltwell Boys here*, and whilst the ending may not be what you expected, I think it’s absolutely worth getting your hands on a copy for a read and something a bit interesting and different.