Saturday, 29 March 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes by Dennis Hamley, reviewed by Brendan Gisby and Reb MacRath

A Class Act

As a dyed-in-the-wool working-class man (or oik, as some might call me), who often rails against Britain's class-divided society, I was intrigued to read Dennis Hamley's Out of the Mouths of Babes. I understand that Dennis wrote the book as his own protest against the class system, seeking to lay bare the system in all its poison. I'll say from the outset that he has succeeded admirably in that aim.

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The trio of central characters - over-privileged Julian, hapless Gary (born, like me, into poverty) and caring, sharing Grizelda, middle-class and in the middle of things - are finely drawn and very believable. These are inspired choices of names, by the way: Julian oozing silver spoon and public school; Grizelda conjuring up images of the well-heeled hippiedom that was rife in the Sixties and Seventies; and Gary simply signifying ordinariness.

The intertwining of the trio's lives is also very believable, as are the two love stories that run through the book - the open, conventional one between Grizelda and Julian, and the covert, unspoken one between her and Gary. In fact, the whole book is cleverly constructed by one who obviously knows the system and his characters.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this beautifully written book. But I do have one grumble. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to reveal that Julian, the toff, receives his comeuppance. My complaint is that his punishment should have been much harsher, the words "lamppost", "nearest" and "strung up by" springing to mind. I would say that, though, wouldn't I? I'm an oik, after all.

The sad fact of the matter is that books like this one by caring authors like Dennis Hamley won't create the slightest dent in the rigidity of Britain's class system. If you want proof, take a look at the Old Etonian-dominated British establishment of 100 years ago, 50 years ago and today. Will it be ever so, eh?
Brendan Gisby

Tune into a pipe organ with 10.000 stops, all pulled to perfection

There's no point in rehashing points made so well by a prior review. Instead, let's take a second look, from a different angle--and help on-the-fence readers decide: is this book a learned academic treatise...or a moving, wrenching Entertainment blending thrills, romance, a heartfelt theme and a simply magnificent style? Trust me: the treasure lies behind that second door. The book is classically structured: the first movement opens with a dire omen of future tragedy...then deftly parallels the early years of three children from three social classes, all three born on the same day. By the close of this brief movement, we've begun to see the three trapped in the same web. Something worse than we first thought will happen, we're sure. The second movement is broken into thirds, one for each of the players. And we see in greater detail the real cause of the tragedy that is destined to occur. Part 3 is the coming together--and hold on to your seatbelts because the suspense is amazing.

But what about that pipe organ? Dennis Hamley's style is  infinitely flexible--and, consequently, capable of any effect that he chooses. Depending on the character and the mood or scene, he modifies the diction, tone, sentence structure, sentence length. And we are led effortlessly from clipped sentences or fragments to exquisitely rounded sentences that would have made Cicero drool.

High-speed Entertainment. And highly recommended.
Reb MacRath


PS: Brendan and Reb have given me permission to reproduce their 5-star Amazon reviews here on Eclectic Electric.  Dennis Hamley

Out of the Mouths of Babes is available on Kindle and later on as a print edition published by the Blank Page Press. This will include a short print run (30-50) of signed and numbered high quality premium editions.