Curling backward and forward in time, Daley-Clarke's debut is less a beginning-to-end novel than an incisive set of related character studies that fugue around a tragedy. The novel's decisive moment takes place during the miserable London summer of 1976, when temperatures reach record highs, and the family of 10-year-old Geoffhurst Johnson splits apart in sudden, tragic fashion. Geoffhurst's father, a West Indian-born soccer player named Sonny, commits an out-of-character crime, leaving Geoffhurst and his sister, Susie, in the care of their aunt Harriet: Geoffhurst and Harriet narrate, with Sonny's letters from prison filling out his perspective. As the book opens, Sonny is about to be released from prison, and a college-age Geoffhurst must push past a tabloid journalist, who offers him five figures for his story, to get into his apartment. He then proceeds to tell the story in his own elliptical way. Geoffhurst charms even when he is behaving boorishly, but even though a lot of what he remembers and talks about is quite vivid, he himself remains frustratingly opaque. Harriet, more reserved, is even less accessible. Extended digressions (British minor-league soccer, voodoo, teenage gangs) are nicely done. The whole doesn't equal the sum of its parts, but British Daley-Clarke shows a great deal of promise. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best First Book in 2006, this novel features a young man named Geoffhurst with a lazy eye. As a result, he is both stereotyped by others and has a unique view of what happens in his world. That world was shattered in the summer heat during his childhood, when, in a vividly written scene, he witnesses the violent destruction of his parents' soured marriage, ultimately covering his dead mother's shoulder with a bloodied tea towel as the evening cools. His father, a professional black soccer player frustrated by racial taunts, is a man so scared of himself that he tries to carve away his beautiful wife's spirit as the only way he can keep her for himself. Instead, he ends up losing everything. That Daley-Clarke is a writer of great talent can not be doubted. Her prose is lyrical and original, as when she describes a teacher whose "unhappiness ran along the parallel bars" and a setting in which "snow falls like basmati rice, but with not enough starch to make it stick." However, the story itself lacks flow, and the voice of Geoffhurst, while capturing the street language and thoughts of an adolescent boy fascinated by women's bodies, breaks up the narrative and fails to engage the reader. Ultimately, readers to whom it will most appeal are those least likely to take it out of the library.
Caroline M. Hallsworth