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 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.