Saturday, 30 January 2016

Far, Far the Mountain Peak

Far, Far the Mountain Peak is the début novel by Arthur Clifford, graduate of Rugby School and Newcastle University, school teacher, explorer and mountaineer of some renown.

It tells the story of John Denby, conceived in a church(!) to parents that might have cruelly been referred to in the Sun or the Daily Mail as "rent-a-protest tin-pot socialist revolutionaries" and, once born, he was rejected by these self-regarding and self-styled revolutionaries and parcelled off from the working class north (though his parents were anything but working class) to his wealthy grandparents in the south of England.

His grandparents doted on him and he was a well-loved child. He was pampered at home, sent to one of the best private schools that their money could buy and he lived a happy, contented life in the London suburb where he created his own idyllic little life filled with model railways (steam, of course!) and the teachings and promises of eternal salvation of the Scripture Union.

But a sudden tragedy destroys all that his grandparents and he had carefully constructed for John.

And he must return to the north of England, a north of England that he had never known.

His parents are just as cold and indifferent to him as they ever had been, and he is made to attend a bizarre and somewhat weird "experimental" state school, partially because this is a school that his father was instrumental in helping to create and launch.

John just does not fit in. Well, with the rejection of his parents and being reared by his wealthy grandparents in an entirely different society hundreds of miles away, how could he have ever had any hope of fitting in?

But John is far from being stupid and pretty quickly he realises that, in order to survive, let alone thrive, he will have to develop the ability to become two entirely different people. A posh and sensitive boy and also a devil may care hard boy. One of the lads.

As he grows up in this strange and somewhat alien environment, John Denby has to try to make sense of it all and to work out what he really wants in life and also how he is to attain it.

This is a very moving first novel and is well worth reading as it takes us from the confused, self-regarding protest generation to their children who still had to try to make sense of the real world.

It is published by The Book Guild at £12.99 and is available from the That's Books book shop, which you will find to the right hand side of this book review.

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