Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an early review copy of Mr. Flood’s Last Resort Side by Jess Kidd, which will publish May 1, 2018. All thoughts are my own.
Writing: 5 Characters: 5 Plot: 5
New words (to me):
leylandii – fast growing coniferous evergreen tree used in horticulture
hurley – stick used in game of hurling
coulter – a vertical cutting blade fixed in front of a plowshare.
A great find! One of the perils of early reviewing is that you have no idea what you’ll get. And more often than not, what you get is OK but not great. However, a book like this makes all the early reviewing worthwhile — a real gem!
Intriguing characters, a continually twisting plot, and elements that just edge beyond our assumptions of reality. It is told in the first person narrative of Maud Drennan, a home health care worker in London. She has been sent to care for Cathal Flood — a bedraggled, Irish giant, cantankerous, and a hoarder of epic proportions. Bridlemere, his four story mansion in West London, is filled to the brim with oddities — Victorian Automata, taxidermy specimens, and scientific curiosities — most of which is hidden behind “The Great Wall of National Geographics”.
With brilliant pacing and suffused with the Irish gift for storytelling, several interconnected and constantly shifting tales unfold: Cathal’s son Gabriel wants to put him in a residential home; there is a mystery surrounding the death of Cathal’s wife some twenty years ago; a missing girl from Dorset from the same time period; and elements from Maud’s own traumatic past. Other characters include a good looking geriatric whisperer, an agoraphobic transsexual with an appetite for crime novels, and a slew of Catholic Saints who appear, emote, and opine at both appropriate and inappropriate times.
I love the writing — metaphors and similes that jar and then settle into being just right and lots of Irish swearing, Shakespearean in breadth. Some great lines:
“Mr. Flood salutes me with his glass and gives me the alligator smile of a TV-advert denture wearer: jauntily fraudulent.”
“Mrs. Cabello has quite then emotional range, from furious and distraught to angry and venomous.”
“The effect is oddly charming; it has something of an ancient misanthropic squirrel about it.”
About The Great Wall of National Geographics: “Each copy has been placed carefully, with aptitude and instinct, so that the whole has the arcane strength of a dry stone wall.”
The book got better and better as it went along — kept me up all night when I made the mistake of going to bed before finishing it! By the way, marketing has compared this with “A Man Called Ove” which I also liked, but frankly I don’t see much of a similarity beyond the fact that both centered around cranky, old, men. The similarity comes to an abrupt stop there. I found this one MUCH more interesting.