Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: Sketcher - Roland Watson-Grant

Title: Sketcher
Author: Roland Watson-Grant
Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Published (UK): 23rd May 2013 (Alma Books)

Nine-year-old "Skid" Beaumont's family is stuck in the mud. Following his father's decision to relocate and build a new home, based on a drunken vision that New Orleans would rapidly expand eastwards into the wetlands as a result of the Seventies' oil boom, Skid and his brothers grow up in a swampy area of Louisiana. But the constructions stop short, the dream fizzles out, and the Beaumonts find themselves sinking in a soggy corner of 1980s Cold War America. As things on the home front get more complicated, Skid learns of his mother's alleged magic powers and vaguely remembers some eerie stories surrounding his elder brother Frico. These, as well as early events that Skid saw with his own eyes, convince him that Frico has a gift to fix things by simply sketching them. For the next few years, Skid's self-appointed mission to convince his brother to join him in his lofty plan to change their family's luck and the world they live in will lead to even more mystery and high drama in the swamp.

Convinced that one day New Orleans will spread to the east, Aldrich Beaumont moved his family out to the, waiting for the city to catch up with them. It never happens. The story is narrated by the youngest of the family, Skid, and through him we get to see the highs and lows (mostly lows) of growing up in the swamps. The four boys of the family deal with life in their own way. Eldest, Tony, is the smart one, always ready with a logical explanation for everything. Doug's answer to everything is money and Frico is the artistic one. And Skid, well, he truly believes that Frico has a special ability that can rescue them all.

Initially, this book took a bit of getting in to due to the colloquial style of writing, but a short way in it flows nicely and really adds to the feel of the story and the essence of the characters. The characters themselves are well written and before long you find yourself really caring what happens to them. Obviously Skid is the one you grow attached to the most but there's a great cast of supporting characters from the boys' friends to the neighbours, Ma and Pa Campbell. The plot moves a nice pace and there's a couple of twists that you don't see coming until they hit you which keeps the story fresh and unpredictable.

Highly recommended.

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