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Monday, September 12, 2022

Review: Prodigal Child

 I've been reading Dave Moulton's blog for a while, and intrigued by many of his musings --- the man can clearly write, and his thoughts and experiences of cycling in the 1950s, and as an independent framebuilder in the 1980s and 1990s before he gave it all up are very much worth your time to read. So when he mentioned that he had a novel called Prodigal Child that was somewhat autobiographical, I sent a sample to my kindle and read it.

The sample was more than good enough for me to pay the kindle price and read the entire thing --- at 265 pages, it's not a doorstop. Note that if you want a signed hardcover copy you can pay him $6 for one. The protagonist is Eddie Comer, a kid who grows up in a working class neighborhood in England during the second world war. His father is abusive and his older brother died during the war. This abusive upbringing, along with the ways schools treated him, led him to do a lot of fighting despite his doing well in choir at school.

I won't spoil the rest of the story, but I can tell you why the book's not super successful --- the writing style (which I like) is very much in the male competence vernacular, which is not a popular style. The hardships that Eddie Comer endured (which in the hands of modern "incompetence literature" vernacular would have been blown up and dramatized) are treated in a matter-of-fact fashion. There's not a lot of flourishes in the writing, or detailed descriptions, or even a single sex scene. This is not a book for people who can't use their brains or want "literature." This is a working class novel written by a man who's built with his hands and an approach to life that while not being super introspective, also has the virtue that it isn't full of self-pity like the kind of incompetence literature that's so popular nowadays.

Obviously I enjoyed the book --- I read it over 2 days and didn't ever want to stop reading it. It grants insight into the blue collar background and adds color to how someone like that might think, as well as giving you insights into a justice system that's very much prejudiced against people coming from that background. It's not high literature by any means, but I think if you enjoy the kind of writing you find in Dave Moulton's blog you won't regret paying the $5 he's asking for the novel.

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