The Secrets We Keep

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THE SECRETS WE KEEP

BY JONATHAN HARVEY

Jonathan Harvey is a comedy writer who to date has written more than one hundred episodes of Coronation Street. Kathy Burke recently recommended “The Secrets We Keep” on Twitter. I love Corrie and I love Kathy Burke and that is how I ended up with Harvey’s fourth novel in my hands.

This is the story of Danny Bioletti, his wife Natalie and their children Owen and Cally. Five years ago Danny went out for a pint of milk and never came back. His devastated family were left to pick up the pieces living in the glare of the media on a posh new estate with over-friendly, nosey neighbours. After his disappearance Danny’s car was found at Beachy Head and so is presumed by all to have taken his life. But when the family find a left luggage ticket in the pocket of one of his old coats, Natalie starts to wonder if he is actually still alive and if he is, where could he be? She begins her own whirlwind of investigations and needless to say, she doesn’t like all that she finds.

The plot is superb, expertly interweaving the central characters with each other’s backstories, one discovered secret leading to another. There’s booming nightclubs, child abuse, teenage modelling, gay relationships, alcoholism, rags to riches and back again. Their stories come to life through Harvey taking on the distinctive voices of each of the four characters for their own chapters full of hoarded secrets, making this a really good read full of unexpected twists and turns. Continue reading

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Going off alarming

GOING OFF ALARMING BY DANNY BAKER

Going off alarming

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Danny Baker but the sight of my husband absolutely shaking with mirth whilst reading the second volume of his autobiography was enough to convince me to get reading it myself. Boy, I’m glad I did!

Danny Baker is best known for his work on TV shows, for hosting football phone-ins on the radio, for being the star of the “Daz Doorstep Challenge” adverts and for being temporary tabloid fodder for his mid-1990s hijinks with Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne. He has worked with all the comedy greats – Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, “a self-lacerating” Frankie Howard and has great yarns to spin from all of these meetings.  Keeping a furious Kenneth Williams waiting and then later on name-dropping the Carry-On star to buy his first house is particularly cracking material.

It’s hard to suck up that Baker is one of life’s lucky blighters who always come up smelling of roses. He has walked between the raindrops (a chapter heading here) and led a charmed life. But this is what sets his story apart from the run of the mill celebrity biographies clogging up supermarket bookshelves. There is no rags to riches, no point at where it all went wrong. Instead this is the story of an original Cockney boy getting away with it over and over again.

His is not an autobiography in the traditional sense. There is very little “I did this, I did that” going on here. Baker is far too clever for that. A natural and endearing raconteur, his amazing career twists and turns are merely squeezed in between hilarious and often unbelievable anecdotes. His recollections of Davey The Dwarf and the Rag and Bone Man story are particular favourites of mine. Even funnier and incredulous than volume one, I warmed to the witty wordplay and life experience of this writer and broadcaster. (Although I still find him a very smug and bumptious personality!)

However, just like his first book, Going To Sea In A Sieve, the star of the show is not the man himself but most definitely his docker father known as ‘Spud.’ An absolute character of a man with wheeling and dealing ways, a brazen attitude towards authority and financial affairs and a firm belief that everyone can be bribed, claiming; “they’ve all got their hand out.” I was choking on my own stifled guffaws on a train through West Sussex as Baker described in perfect detail Spud’s Sunday routine of elaborate ablutions and preparing the cockles for tea. Even the title of the book, Going Off Alarming, Continue reading

Let’s explore diabetes with owls

LET’S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS

BY DAVID SEDARIS

sedaris

I’m not going to say it. Oh ok then I will. This book was an absolute hoot! Oh dear, I said it. But it was. These essays and monologues are full of quizzical observation, great comedy, surreal experiences and quick, sharp, brilliantly witty writing.

In one excerpt he recalls competing with pop-kid Donny Osmond for his father’s approval, other parts recall him keeping sea turtles in his bedroom and buying stuffed owls for his boyfriend. His writing offers us humour and at turns, knowing frailty. The humour being of the kind that makes you snort coffee out your nose/ people move away from you on the train.

I loved the piece on modern  children; “Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it because my parents recognised it for what it was, crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.”

I also loved his description of how Americans dress when they’re travelling; “It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw his sponge down saying fuck this, I’m going to Los Angeles!”

Really funny, clever and interesting writing. I would definitely read more of his material. Thanks to my husband for putting me onto him. Great taste!

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 8/10

Notes on the author – David Sedaris:

  • Has written 7 other books
  • Regular contributor to The New Yorker and Radio 4
  • Now lives in England

Tears and joy from classic comedy genius

THE SECOND LIFE OF SALLY MOTTRAM BY DAVID NOBBS

This is a lovely, funny, touching novel by the comic genius that brought us Reggie Perrin – David Nobbs. It’s the story of Sally Mottram, an ordinary resident of Potherthwaite, a small fictional Pennine town. A town, like so many now, in a dreadful rut of abandoned buildings and closing businesses. Sally feels strongly that something has to be done to turn around the town’s fortunes but what? and by whom?

A shocking tragedy breaks up this nice little tale of a one-woman crusade quite early on. Something happens that is so devastating that it threatens to shatter Sally’s whole existence. But indeed it is this incident that sparks her into action as she embarks on a mission to bring Potherthwaite back to life, rallying the whole community to save itself.

At times the plot appears to be straying into ITV Monday night drama territory but Nobbs didn’t get where he is today by succumbing to neat, twee, happy endings. Instead, we find amongst the tea rooms and allotments tales of suicide, obesity, guilt and jealousy all smothered in a heavy dollop of ‘keeping up appearances’ small town paranoia. Continue reading