Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Gap Years by Dave Holwill. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for my free copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
I read Dave Holwill’s last book, The Craft Room, last summer and absolutely loved it so I was looking forward to more of the same. However, this book is completely different, but that is not necessarily a negative.
This is a story about family in the modern age, where people don’t marry, have 2.4 children, celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary and then die and get buried side by side in a family grave plot they bought thirty years ago. In the current climate, family is a much more fluid idea, where people have children, split, have new families, take on other people’s children as their own, make family units that are entirely unique.
This story reflects that, and how these more transient relationships affect the different generations involved. Martin split with his wife eight years previously and she moved away and took their young son with her. Martin most touch with Sean and hasn’t seen his son since, until the day Sean reappears and announces he’s moving in with his dad. The only problem is, Martin has moved on and now has a new family, including a step-daughter with whom he has a closer relationship than he has with his natural son.
This is a book that explores our family relationships. About how they are formed and maintained and fractured and broken and rebuilt. About whether blood really is thicker than water. About what it means to be a parent in the modern day and what it means to be a child. The author tells this story in the alternating voices of father and son, so we get to see the relationship from both sides, and it is absolutely fascinating.
Sean is a fairly typical confused teenager, with unrealistic ambitions who ends up stuck in a dead end job. He has a fraught relationship with both of his parents, each of whom has badly let him down as far as I can see, and he is trying to find a place where he feels at home. Oddly, it is his step-mother and new step-sister with whom he has the easiest relationship, which begs the interesting question as to whether the problems we have in our blood relationships are the expectations we place on them which can probably never be fully met, which don’t exist with people we aren’t actually related to and from who we have no right to expect anything and we have to work at meaning something to. His hormones are also racing, and leading to complications of the female kind.
When we are young, we expect our parents to know what they are doing, but as we grow older, we realise they are just as clueless as everyone else. Everyone is winging it, and this is certainly true with Martin. He feels fairly impotent, one failed relationship behind him, struggling to maintain his new one, estranged from his son and unsure how to rebuild that bond, wondering why he finds it easier to love his step-daughter than his own flesh and blood. Stuck in his own dull job. Add in a manipulative, self-serving female playing father off against son and this leads to some taut drama.
This book is very well-written and, despite the plot being a fairly small, domestic drama, absolutely riveting. The author does a magnificent job of showing the pressures and problems that beset the ordinary people up and down the country in the modern age and every reader will find something to relate to in this story. It is unusual to see male relationships portrayed so honestly and accurately, and I felt really moved by it. At the same time, it contains the same blackness and humour that I loved from Dave’s last book.
This is a really accomplished story that reflects family relationships in the twenty-first century and it was a joy to read.
Gap Years is out now and you can get a copy here.
To follow the rest of the tour, check out the poster below:
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