Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Jerome’s Angel by Richard Ommanney

Jerome's Angel

“Jerome is determined that the loss of his virginity will be a glorious fusion of hearts and minds that will last a lifetime. Thanks to his appalling mate Colin it’s the opposite. But Jerome clings to the hope that somewhere in the known universe is his soulmate.

He lives with his mother Hortense, whose apparent respectability hides a shocking past. Her neurotic dog appears to be a daughter substitute, and becomes the target for assassination by a retired soldier who lusts after Hortense, and who has a dark secret of his own.

Many lives intersect as Jerome searches for true love. He never knew his father, who died before he was born. But when he finally finds his soulmate, she opens his eyes to a very different truth.

~~~:~~~

I may be getting old, or I may just read the wrong books, but  it seems to me that it’s currently fashionable to write novels with central characters so unlikeable (or – worse – just plain uninteresting) that you not only don’t care what happens to them you also have absolutely no intention of hanging around to find out.

Once, not so very long ago, it was almost unheard of for me not to finish a book.  Now it’s a depressingly regular occurrence, even when I’m reading supposedly ‘light’ fiction, and as far as the authors are concerned, that’s surely the literary equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.  You can be the most talented, entertaining, witty and incisive writer of your generation, but if no-one actually reads what you write, it’s going to be a really well kept secret.

Enter Jerome’s Angel …

Given Richard Ommanney’s track record as a television scriptwriter, it comes as no surprise that the book is extremely well written and – rare amongst ebooks – almost devoid of typographical errors.  The narrative gallops along at nice brisk pace, the plot goes off at satisfying little tangents from time to time, and it’s a small masterclass in “Show, don’t tell” which should be compulsory reading for all would-be writers.

All of that however would count for nothing if the dramatis personae had come straight out of Central Casting with predictable back stories, hackneyed motivations and cardboard cut-out personalities.  But they didn’t:  if there’s a ‘stock’ character anywhere in this book, I failed to spot it.

Our hero, Jerome Belfrage, inhabits a Middle England that is almost, but not quite, entirely like any leafy suburb in any given town in the Home Counties.  It’s The Archers rewritten by Douglas Adams.  Mad Majors lurk in the shrubbery, deluded lovelorn women-of-a-certain-age use obnoxious small dogs as child substitutes, frustrated local journalists hurtle across town in headlong pursuit of non-existent big stories and Jerome’s tiresomely oikey mates continually turn up at breathtakingly inconvenient moments.

Jerome’s default setting is ‘pessimistic’, which is entirely understandable  given the shape his life is in, but he’s also bright, hard-working and immensely likeable, so when Angie – his Angel – crosses his path in a DIY superstore you’re in there, willing the union to be a match made in heaven.

The meeting, however, is only the beginning of the story and such is the skill with which it’s  written, you really don’t know where or how it’s going to end. Although Jerome’s Angel is unquestionably a romance, I’ve never read one quite like it before. When an almost off-hand comment from Angie sets Jerome off on a search for the father he never knew, we embark on a journey  that will eventually see every major character, and quite a number of the subsidiary characters, morphing before our eyes. Hardly anyone is exactly what they at first seem to be,  and behind their carefully self-constructed facades lie the stories of sad, lonely and regretful people trying to survive in a world that doesn’t care.

It’s a wonderful  piece of story-telling.  Even the minor characters have back stories and well-defined characters and not only are you interested in what happens to everyone, you actually care what happens.  Jerome’s Angel is entertaining, elegiac and tea-down-the-nose funny.  Above all else, however, it’s life-enhancing.  You feel better for having read it – and there aren’t too many books around at the moment you can say THAT about.

~~~:~~~

Jerome’s Angel.  Kindle Edition. 2011. Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.  ASIN: B0052ENKEM.

~~~:~~~

You can read an extract from ‘Jerome’s Angel’ HERE – and don’t forget to join us tomorrow for an interview with the author, Richard Ommanney.

About Moira

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6 comments on “Jerome’s Angel by Richard Ommanney

  1. annebrooke
    May 23, 2012

    Sounds wonderful – though a sad waste of tea there, I feel! :) Definitely one for my list …

  2. Karen
    May 23, 2012

    If the book is half as good as this review then it will be brilliant. I must read Jerome’s Angel now, after I re-read the review.

  3. Kate Lace
    May 23, 2012

    I thought, at the outset of your review, you were about to pan this book. But no! So want to go and read it now. Might even have to buy a kindle

  4. Hilary
    May 23, 2012

    Thank you, Moira – you’ve found my holiday reading (or part of it), and thanks to the Kindle App, I can go for instant gratification (it is scarily easy to buy books that I see recommended now – another plus point for writers taking the e-publishing route?). This does sound like a very satisfying novel – and, another bonus, a lot of fun to read (though I’ll take to heart the warning about the tea).

  5. kirstyjane
    May 24, 2012

    This sounds superb — also going on my TBR pile. Great to see more of the author, too, in the interview.

  6. Pingback: Coming up on Vulpes Libris … « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on May 23, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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