Thursday, 21 February 2019

#BlogTour #BookReview: Gap Years @daveholwill @rararesources

Gap Years

Written by Dave Holwill


Pages 250
Published Independently on 12th February 2019
Genre Contemporary, Coming Of Age, Romantic Fiction

My thanks again to author Dave Holwill for a free digital copy of this book to review, and to Rachel, of Rachel's Random Resources, for the invitation to join this blog tour for Gap Years. 

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The blurb:

Gap Years

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.

My thoughts:

Having so enjoyed the antics in The Craft Room, I was expecting another uproariously funny, dark comedy, and whilst there is a lot of humour, this is a slightly more serious look at a father and son attempting to reconnect after an enforced eight-year period of separation.

When I chose this book, I assumed the title alluded to the period between a young adult leaving school and starting university - which does cover the time-frame of this story. However, having finished the book, I think it refers to the time that Martin and Sean spent apart and were unable to connect.
It is written in the first person from the perspectives of both Martin, the father, and Sean, the son, which helps the reader to fully appreciate both sides of the story. I found Holwill's wittily told tale to be magnetic. It was hard to put the book down because, having read one side of the story, I had to know there and then, the other side.

The background to the story is: Martin's ex-wife, Tanya, took young Sean away from the family home when she left Martin, and told him not to contact his son. This Martin did to avoid causing more conflict with Tanya, and upsetting Sean. Perhaps he also did this for himself, and in later life is regretting that decision.

Eight years later, 19-year-old Sean, having argued with his mother - she wants him to go to university, but he has other ideas - is now living in his father's home with Martin's new family. 

Martin is now married to Alison, and has a much-loved 12-year-old step-daughter, Melody, who to him is like a daughter, and is probably a surrogate for the years he missed with Sean. Alison, is a counsellor. She is supportive of Sean, and Melody is both excited and delighted to have a big brother.

The story begins with a cycling accident which causes a rift in Sean and Martin's already tentative relationship. They haven't really connected at this point, and the accident serves to widen the divide between them.

Rhiannon, a young girl who works in the factory with both Martin and Sean, is next to further increase that divide. She has been sofa-surfing and inveigles her way into the spare room in the family home. She obviously has her own issues, and causes trouble between Martin and Sean. I loathed her, and was worried that her ridiculous behaviour was going to impact Martin's marriage, and as a result, the wider family, but Alison and Martin's marriage proves strong - they are able to frankly discuss and deal with, even the trickiest of matters.

In this story there are accidents, the death of a beloved family member, deceit, new friendships and experiences, and an opted-out but seemingly omnipresent character called 'The Wizard', formerly known as 'Rob'. I should also warn that there are adult themes and some swearing in this book, but nothing that would put me off. 

Sean very much grows up, and learns a number of lessons during his time living under his father's roof, some harder than others. And whilst this might sound a little grim, there is a happy ending with everybody getting what they need, although, in some cases, not necessarily what they want.

I enjoyed this story, even though it is very different to The Craft Room. Gap Years examines a father-son relationship from the inside, rather than as an observer. Each chapter left me wanting to know more, which in my book - pun not intended - is the sign of a truly absorbing read. Another great read from Dave Holwill. I look forward to his next book.

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Author Bio – Dave Holwill

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.

Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.

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