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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Box of Tricks by Jeff Phelps

I've mentioned Box of Tricks, the new novel written by Jeff Phelps and published by Tindal Street Press, a few times on Twitter, Facebook, and so on recently.

Well, I've just finished reading it and uploaded my review to Amazon.co.uk. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I thought I'd share my impressions with you here as well. Here's a slightly adapted version of my Amazon review...

Box of Tricks is difficult to categorize. It's part comedy, part nostalgia, part coming-of-age novel. But it also explores some deeper themes of freedom and responsibility, especially towards one's family.

The setting of the book - a British seaside town in the early 1960s - reflects a time when society was changing rapidly. Two of the younger characters - teenage tearaway Ray and aspiring model Julia - are enthusiastically embracing the new freedoms. The narrator, the slightly younger Eddie, finds himself torn between the old and the new.

Box of Tricks is beautifully written, in fluid, evocative prose. Yet though it is undoubtedly a literary novel, the author also weaves a deftly constructed plot, with some surprising twists and turns. Many of these centre on the eponymous back-street joke shop, which plays a pivotal role in the story.

Box of Tricks starts off slowly, then picks up pace as the key characters find their lives changing forever. The novel moves towards a conclusion that is touching without being over-sentimental. It answers enough questions to leave readers satisfied, yet enough unsaid to resonate long after the book has been put down.

Overall, Box of Tricks gets my highest recommendation as an intelligent, thought-provoking, but above all hugely enjoyable read.

Obviously, I may be just a little biased as Jeff is an old friend of mine, but I do read a lot of fiction, and this is one of the books I have most enjoyed for a long time. I've always known that Jeff is a highly talented writer, and it's great to see his work at last achieving the recognition it deserves. If you'd like to know more about Box of Tricks, here is an image link to the book's page on Amazon.co.uk...


If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the image link.

Incidentally, Jeff was interviewed a while ago on WritersFM about his first novel, Painter Man. He is a thoughtful and engaging interviewee, and I recommend downloading the interview from the WritersFM podcasts page and giving it a listen. Jeff has a demanding full-time job as an architect, and it's particularly interesting to hear him discuss how he manages to find time for writing in his busy schedule.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous AmyMusing said...

You sold me on it in the first paragraph! Thanks! I love a good read. The things you listed are at the top of my requirement list!

6:37 PM  
Blogger Bob Hale said...

I've just come back from watching Jeff perform at Bilston Voices. He read a short section of Box of Tricks and several poems.
I was very impressed.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Bob. Yes, Jeff is one of the most naturally talented writers I have ever met. I hope one day his work is known and appreciated much more widely.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I am writing on behalf of Ben Wood.
Ben has recently started his own fiction story site called Army of Puppets.
http://www.armyofpuppets.com

8:15 AM  

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