Delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour for this original new book by Dave Holwill, The Craft Room. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachels’ Random Resources for my spot on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
“Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life. The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth? You can only push a grandmother so far…”
This book is a real breath of fresh air. It has a totally original premise which is carried through with black humour and an entertaining, conversational voice that is a real joy to read.
The book centres around the character of Sylvia, a 66-year-old grandmother who is stuck in a rut without even realising it. Her son, Robert, divorced from his unsuitable (in the eyes of his mother at least) wife, Alexa is proving a drain on his parents’ finances, despite being in his forties and Sylvia is banking on an inheritance from her dying mother to help them out. And her husband has moved his golf clubs into the spare bedroom recently vacated by their son. She’s not happy.
Then her mother dies, and things get much, much worse.
This book reminded me a lot of Nigel William’s The Wimbledon Poisoner with its darkly comic tone and premise of a seemly mild-mannered middle-class suburban anti-hero being pushed to breaking point by the strains of social etiquette in the modern world. A person who might be familiar to you as a neighbour, family member or even yourself turning out to be a quiet psychopath.
The situations that Sylvie finds herself in get more and more shocking as the book progresses and you will find yourself gasping out loud at the audacity of the predicaments the author puts her in and the courses of action he has her taking. This book’s humour pulls no punches and will appeal to readers who can see the humour in the really dark corners of the human soul. Anyone who enjoys the comedy of the likes of The League of Gentleman will be in sync with this book. Those of a squeamish or prudish nature should probably give it a pass, but they will be missing a treat of a read.
Despite her actions, you can’t help but have a certain amount of sympathy for Sylvia, as she is surrounded by some truly appalling characters early on in the book. However, this sympathy decreases in direct contrast to the increased craziness of her behaviour as she begins to get a taste for her new found freedom. The most sympathetic character of all has to be her hapless son, Robert, bullied and hen-pecked by all around him and never have made a good decision in his life, will he find his backbone by the end of the book? You’ll have to read it to find out.
The icing on the top of the comedy cake are the bumbling detective duo who are tasked with investigating certain nefarious goings on in a quiet corner of Devon where nothing more exciting happens than a old lady forgetting where she has put her jewellery. Suddenly up against a spate of gruesome events, one wonders if they are up to the challenge, or if they should just stick to honing their biscuit dunking skills.
I really, really loved this book. It completely appealed to my macabre sense of humour and my delight in any book that goes off at a bit of a tangent from well-worn literary tropes. There were a lot of little inside jokes and references which were fun to spot and the whole thing just made me feel fizzy with pleasure. Great stuff.
The Craft Room is out now and you can buy a copy here.
There are more great reviews to come on the tour, so make sure you check out the blog below on the relevant dates:
About the Author
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.
Connect with Dave:
Facebook: Dave Holwill
Goodreads: Dave Holwill