I rather missed the party with Tollesbury Time Forever as it was published at the start of the year and was hugely successful. It has 74 predominantly five star customer reviews on Amazon and I read somewhere that it was in the semi-finals of the best Amazon book of 2012 (or something like that). I downloaded the novel several weeks ago after I'd read the other two novels that Stuart Ayris has published on Amazon, both of which I thought were excellent.
Tollesbury Time Forever is an intriguing, challenging, clever and beautifully written novel. It is based on the assertion made by the author that he was a psychiatric nurse who went with the police into the house of one of his patients because the man, Simon Anthony had disappeared along with his wife and son. The walls were covered in thousands of words written in tiny handwriting and he (the author) has transcribed the words and slightly added to them to tell Simon's story. Right from the start this works and gives the opening and all that comes thereafter a strong sense of authenticity. For most of the novel we are, through the transcribed words, in Simon's head and sharing his world as he sees it. Because Simon has complicated mental health issues for which he needs medication, Simon's world is not an easy one to understand; yet at times his world is the one that seems straightforward and it is the "real" world that is too complex.
I think it is difficult to write about the sort of issues that are explored in this novel but here it is done with sensitivity and insight. The novel is easy to read but it is dealing with complex and challenging ideas. I finished reading the book several days ago and am still thinking about it - particularly the ending. I will probably read it again quite soon.
Even though it is dealing with serious matters, the novel tells a good tale and you read through it quickly because you get involved with Simon and the other characters and you want to know what is going to happen next and how the dilemmas are going to be resolved. The FRUGALITY of the trilogy's title is a big part of the novel and it is the introduction to this that is the turning point for Simon - or is it the turning point for the reader? FRUGALITY embodies an interesting, meaningful and relevant philosophy and the narrative around it's exploration is almost simplistic yet it promotes big, overarching ideas.
At times the writing style becomes musical with overtones of Beatles lyrics and allusions; sometimes it reads like nursery rhymes; at other times there is a musical rhythm in the language. In places the style is poetical and some segments really are poetry. I loved reading this book although it made me want to cry in places (but I didn't because it stops short of being soppy). Stuart Ayris has recently published a book of poems Bighugs, Love and Beer and even though I don't usually read poetry, I have downloaded it because I liked the poetry so much in this novel.
It doesn't matter if you read this novel and The Bird That Nobody Sees (the second book in the FRUGALITY trilogy) out of order. However, if you haven't read either I would read Tollesbury Time Forever first because then you get FRUGALITY explained fully rather than the potted version that is in The Bird That Nobody Sees. I thought both novels were really good and well worth reading. I am looking forward to reading the third novel in the trilogy and hope it appears soon.
Since I started writing this review, I have read the poems in Bighugs, Love and Beer. I don't usually read contemporary poetry but I enjoyed most of these because they rhyme - and I do like rhymes. Some are funny, some quirky, some romantic (ish), some child-like, some serious. There is good word-play in some and overall, I enjoyed reading the collection.