Take Me Out by Martyn Clayton ~ a novel of warmth and humanity
I was immediately snagged by the blurb that comes with this novel. There’s something comforting about having a main character who appears initially to have little that is instantly heroic about them but who seems both familiar and likeable more or less on first acquaintance. Lauren Seymour is cruising through life with little to either challenge or excite her and she’s probably set fair to do so for some years yet until an idle promise made while half drunk comes back to haunt her. I’ll show you what I mean:
“Lauren Seymour enjoys a well-ordered existence. Passing her time in York she likes nothing better than the occasional crisp sandwich, reality TV, listening to her CD collection and ignoring the advice of her big gay house-mate. An early morning phone-call suddenly shakes her out of her comfortable groove.
How do you react when the odd guy you once tried to avoid befriending whilst at university claims that you are now the only person on the planet who could possibly help him? When that man has been pulled half alive out of the icy-cold waters of the River Ouse after attempting to kill himself you might feel obliged to at least see what you could do.
What she discovers in the 32 year old Robert P. Gorman is a man who has kept the ashes of his dead granny under his bed for ten years, and who hasn’t bought an item of clothing for a similar length of time. Yet he doesn’t seem completely beyond redemption. Could Lauren be the one to rescue Robert?”
At first I was concerned that this would be some variation on the Ugly Duckling story, but I soon discovered that the author lives in my world and not a Disney world, and the characters are so real, I swear I already know some of them. Robert, the would-be suicide, is vulnerable and very annoying; he seems to push away those whom he has asked for help, and yet retains a certain little-boy-lost appeal, and the promise Lauren made to be there for him carries more weight than she ever intended.
While many of the themes are serious and even a bit disturbing, they are written is such a stunningly light-hearted way that there were plenty of moments where I roared with laughter. There’s one part that involves a scenic view of the Yorkshire countryside, a Quality street tin full of human ashes and the core characters trying to do the right thing, that had me holding my sides from laughing. It would really be brilliant as a film. The dialogue is often funny, but largely because of the sheer understated humour inherent in the speech and attitudes of people from Yorkshire rather than deliberate jokes or puns. But anyone who has ever spent time in this part of England will also know, the humour of the people springs from great kindness and a closer connection to our shared humanity than you find in many parts of the world.
It’s a very BRITISH book, but I think it would appeal to Anglo-philes all over the world. The story is set in the city of York and is rooted in both the city and the county as well as English culture. It’s also very kind book, and one that recognises the value and the limitations of kindness. The characters are ones you can very much relate to, in their different ways, and I’ve wondered what would happen in their lives after the story finishes.
I guess that is the mark of a good book, when the actors within it make you care enough to speculate about their futures.