Monday, 19 September 2016

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

review by Maryom

In the south of England, in the vicinity of Salisbury, five rivers meet and flow together to the sea.
In the similar way, the lives of five people living in and around the city run into each other briefly but then part and continue separately - Rita, a market stall holder who feels that after a life filled with mistakes, this time she's really ruined her life; Sam, a teenager torn between first love and first devastating grief, George an elderly man whose wife has just died, Alison, a middle-aged army wife struggling to fill her lonely days, cut off from her husband posted abroad and unable to communicate with her teenage son, and Liam, a security guard who's abandoned his flash London job in search of something that he can't really name. Their paths have crossed before without them realising but a car crash brings all five together - some directly involved, others as shocked by-standers.

The novel is told through five separate stories, each of which is devoted to one of the five characters and narrated in their own words. Norris definitely has a knack for capturing the essentials of a character, and convincingly bringing them alive through their own 'voice'. There's a downside to this though, in that while I felt sympathy for some of the characters, I found others self-obsessed and tending towards boring because of it (perhaps that's just part of the author's skill though).
Each of them is facing a personal crisis, and, of course, they tackle it in different ways. As they reflect on their lives, the reader becomes privy to their loves and losses, the huge mistakes, the occasional lucky break, and realises, often before the characters themselves, that these five lives have been circling round and touching each other frequently over the years.
Despite the very obvious 'literary' structure, this is still a very readable book, with characters who are easily related to. Certainly an author I'll be watching out for.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult literary fiction

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