Set admits the turbulent times of what is billed as the largely forgotten war in America, the War of 1812, we met 10 year old Henry Phipps, a young man with much of which to cope in his young life. The death of his mother sets off a train of events which will prove as entertaining as they will conducive to what Henry hopes, will be the fulfilment of his mother’s final wish; to unite the family and be buried at sea.
Easier said than done; but with the rich and beautifully constructed language used by Nick Arvin to bring to life the turbulent and troubled times in a period of American history, Mad Boy proves to be a rollicking good tale, as young Henry sets out to try and find is ne’er-do-well father, who it turns out has ended up in debtors prison and his brother Franklin, who is busy fighting the English on the battlefields of Maryland’s.
Word has come to Henry that Franklin has been killed, but Henry considers this is nothing but a lie and while he trying to find out from his mother what she thinks, a cow falls through the roof, leaving her in a tangled heap on the floor, dead! She had always said to Henry that she wanted to be buried at sea, definitely not in the ground.
About this very early point in the book, it is to be wondered at the machinations of the authors mind, but by then and as the pages turn, it is almost impossible not to keep turning the next page to find out what happens next.
This, as it would begin to appear, is totally ‘black humour’ coupled with a sense of the ridiculous, couched in bona-fide American history, along with the love of good yearn, has created an addictive read.
As the storyline unfolds, the adventures Henry has as he meets an incredible cast of characters, from the former slave Radnor, who decides his best bet of remaining a free man was to side with the Redcoats, Morley, a turncoat British soldier fighting for the Americans along with many others from prostitutes to pimps, is nothing but incredulous.
Add ‘Mother’ and her wisdom from beyond the veil, as she journey’s in her pickle barrel to the coast, it is time to make a decision, to continue to read, tongue-in-cheek and enjoy the tale for what it is or otherwise.
Persevere as it is well worth reaching the final page because the ending is like the rest of the tale, unexpected and yet, somehow absolutely fitting.
|Distributor||New South Books|