Written by Ian Ayris – The debut novel from Ian Ayris, a well known writer in online circles, Abide With Me will surely ensure that this author becomes well-known to a much wider audience, such is the quality of the book.
Beginning in 1975, Abide With Me is the story of eight-year-old John, and his life growing up in the East End of London. John has dreams of becoming a footballer, and follows West Ham United religiously. Times are hard though, and all is not plain sailing. His dad’s job is in jeopardy, school isn’t where he wants to be, and he’s being pushed into being friends with the new boy who lives over the road. As we follow John’s passage through school into adulthood, he discovers life isn’t as easy as we believe it is when we’re young, and when John suddenly starts grabbing the attention of local gangster Ronnie Swordfish, he’s forced to make some tough decisions.
Abide With Me is difficult to categorise. When I first picked it up, I was expecting a more crime based novel. However it is so much more. In the style of a Nick Hornby coming of age novel, this has its feet firmly planted in the literary crime genre. (I’ve just checked on Google and yes, such a genre does exist!)
This is a novel about characters, told from the perspective of John in a distinctive first person voice. Seeing life in the late 70s and 80s through his eyes, it’s impossible to not be drawn into the story. What makes this superior to other similar novels is the Brit Grit factor. Ayris is unafraid to show the darkness behind drawn curtains, and the pathos he generates from this outlook lifts Abide With Me above its contemporaries.
The relationship between John and the boy across the road, Kenny, is fantastically written, but it’s in John’s own family that the heart of this novel lies. Anyone who grew up in a true working class household will find a lot in common with the characters. One particular incident with a tea towel had me wondering if Ayris had been in my house 20 years ago. The way in which football is used to bind characters together will also be familiar to a lot of people, the bonds created by the beautiful game are hard to describe, yet Ayris does it perfectly.
When the crime comes, it is handled deftly with an incredible amount of skill. Overall though, this is a story about characters, lives and redemption. An astounding story, with an original voice and style, Abide With Me is an absolute must read. One of my favourite crime books for a long, long time. It’s incredibly emotional, heart-warming and with an ending to die for.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars
What an excellently written review. And I couldn’t agree more with the opinions you’ve expressed. I was so impressed by this book.
I agree. Fantastic book.
We have some great new books this season and all of them deserve to reach as wide an audience as possible and none more so than this. We have sent numerous copies out for review to the nationals and if they would pick it up and review it instead of sticking with the same old safe big six publishers they would be equally impressed.Great review Paul.