What Amazon says
This book is in two parts. A collection of seven short – and not so short – stories, which make up the bulk of the book, followed by a selection of recent poems.
Travel has always been a passion of the author and, one way or another, nearly every piece here is to do with journeys. Some of the stories are quite dark, but the majority of the poems have a lighter touch.
Two stories are set in India; in one, a young man goes in search of a mysterious destiny, while in the other a travelling Englishman becomes embroiled in a chilling disappearance. One story speaks of the support and comradeship of a close-knit island community while another tells of jealous intelligences far older than mankind.
There is one long poem, which gives the title to this collection and tells of a journey across India and into the mountains. There is also a short series of poems about the ancient paths and tracks of Britain; in these, especially, a love of the natural world shines through.
This is the first book I have read by author, Mick Canning. Right up front, I must say that I loved the beautiful language in this book. Mick Canning has a wonderful way with words and I felt like I was right on the scene. An example of this language is the following sentence from The Last Viking: “The nearly-full moon shone brightly in the soft black sky, floating peacefully among the rapidly moving streamers of smoky grey wrack, as though it might be a boat securely moored and bobbing imperceptibly on a great tide that poured past.” I always delight in finding a modern author who writes lovely descriptive language as this is something that is lacking in a lot of recently written books I read.
This book comprises a a number of short stories, all well written, and each with a different theme that leaves you thinking. Some are set in the UK and others in Asia and all involve journeying or travelling of some sort which ties back with the title.
The two stories that made the greatest impact on me were The Last Viking and The Girl of His Dreams.
The Last Viking is the story of a young girl, living with her father on a remote island in Scotland. The father is dying from an disease which sounds like consumption (tuberculosis) and has not been able to work efficiently for a number of years. The young girl looks after him and keeps the house going. The author captures the emotional and mental turmoil of the daughter, who knows there is something seriously wrong with her father but has never discussed his illness with him. The father takes a serious turn for the worse during a terrible storm that cuts of the island from the mainland, making it impossible to transport him to a hospital. The descriptive language was very emotional and I delighted in this story even though the ending is sad. It is a wonderful thing when an author can really make you care about a character, especially in a short story.
The girl of his dreams is the other story that made me feel very emotional. It depicts a young man who, due to mental illness, has been caste out of his village. He is given food each day, provided he collects firewood for the village. It is a very usury relationship and very poignant. The young man is not able to fully understand why his situation is as it is, and the story delves into some of his actions and thoughts which are confused. His overriding wish is to have a woman, which makes perfect sense given his age and simpleness of thoughts. This story also has a tragic ending but it leaves the reader feeling very overwhelmed by the plight of the young man and the lack of understanding and support for him. This story seems to be set in Asia although it is not specifically stated.
The other stories are all good reads and the book ends with a selections of poems. The Night Bus sort of fits into the description of an epic poem, as it tells the story of an unusual journey, but it is set in the present and not a time beyond living memory. I found this poem very enthralling and enjoyed the vivid picture it painted of the man’s journey. The other poems are also unique and interesting to read.
A lovely book and one which I have had on my kindle for a few months now. I really regretted not reading it sooner and will certainly read more books by this author.