Atlantic View by Matthew Geyer

Connections…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

Following his father’s death, Patrick Munchen finds a bundle of letters among his papers, from a girl he knew in Lyme Regis while he was stationed there in advance of the Normandy landings. His curiosity aroused, Patrick sets out to find if the woman is still alive – a journey that will take him from his home in California first to England and then to Ireland, and will lead him to reassess his own life as he discovers more about his father’s.

My usual disclaimer – Matt Geyer has been an online friend of mine for some years now, but as always I’ve tried my best not to let my friendship with him bias my opinion or this review. Fortunately I loved the book, so it wasn’t too difficult!

Geyer writes beautifully and from the heart. There is a distinctively American style to his prose – what I think of as West Coast writing, though I’m no expert. It’s a kind of specific vocabulary that in itself creates a sense, not perhaps so much of place, but of a culture and, dare I say it, a class – educated, liberal, moderate, introspective, male (though that may simply be that my limited reading of American fiction hasn’t covered women writing from the same cultural perspective). While I often find this language style more “foreign” to my British ears than many other American regional variations, I find the attitudes far more in tune with the overarching culture of western Europe and that always makes it easier for me to empathise with the characters.

The book is heavily character-focused, but the plot is strong enough to carry it. On arriving in Lyme Regis, Patrick finds that the letter-writer, Molly Bowditch, no longer lives there but he discovers a few people old enough to remember war-time and the American troops who mingled with the locals while they waited for the order to invade Europe. Later, he follows Molly’s trail to Ireland – to a small island off the Ring of Kerry looking out over the vast Atlantic towards America. As he becomes more involved with piecing together his father’s past, his own present is in flux. His beloved daughter grown and off at college, his career as a journalist in freefall as technology changes the face of the profession, his marriage, once solid, now seems hollow, purposeless. He’s not consciously searching for a new meaning to his life, but perhaps understanding his father will help him to understand himself.

Geyer’s depictions of modern and wartime Lyme Regis are excellent – it’s easy to see the amount of research that has gone into the book, but he uses it lightly to convey an impression that I found believable and authentic in both time periods. Equally so with the troops stationed there, socialising within the community and gradually building connections that both sides knew would be temporary. He shows us these men, knowing that they were about to be thrown into the hell of war, living through this hiatus with a mixture of courage, comradeship and fear. And I found the relationship that grew up between Patrick’s father and Molly just as believable – a kind of reaching for human contact at a time when the future was uncertain and fragile.

Matthew Geyer

When the story moves to Ireland, the setting is just as authentic. Geyer avoids the pitfalls of “Oirishness” – a trap too many American (and other) authors fall into of making Ireland seem quaint and twee and a little fey, populated by characters so eccentric one has to wonder if they’re half-leprechaun. Geyer’s Ireland is the real modern country of his time setting of 2005: revolutionised economically as the Celtic Tiger, advanced technologically and culturally, highly educated. This really shouldn’t be refreshing, but it is – hugely! He catches the distinctive Irish speech patterns and rhythms well but subtly, never over-playing his hand. And his descriptive writing gives a real sense of the lovely ruggedness of the landscape, together with a feel for the harder, poorer past from which Ireland had so recently emerged.

In essence, this is a quiet, reflective book concentrating on one man’s journey, physically across the world, and emotionally from his past towards his future. But we also come to know and care about the people he knows and cares about. There are no villains here, nor heroes – just flawed humans doing their best to understand themselves and each other and make connections as they navigate their lives. Excellent characterisation, three distinct and well-drawn settings, lovely writing and an interesting story – great stuff!

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 239…

Episode 239

A special edition this week – every book mentioned is either written, translated or published by one of the many talented friends I’ve made in this strange but rather wonderful online world! As regulars know, I’m in the middle of the biggest reading/reviewing slump in the history of the universe, so I hope that Margot, Matt and Marina Sofia will understand that it may be a while before I review these since I want to wait till my usual bookish enthusiasm is back in proper working order. I’m looking forward to each of them, though – don’t they sound great?

Not so good for the TBR however – up 3 to 217! But who’s counting…?

Crime in Translation 1

Living Candles by Teodora Matei

Marina Sofia of Finding Time to Write has started a new translating and publishing venture with a few like-minded friends. Corylus Books aims to present “some of the great European crime fiction that wouldn’t normally make its way into English”, particularly “crime fiction with a social dimension”. This is one of the first off the press…

The Blurb says: The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

If you enjoy travelling the world virtually through your crime fiction, then Living Candles is the perfect book to convey the atmosphere of the Romanian urban environment. Or at least the murkier side of it: the blocks of flats where the neighbours all know each other’s business, the pensioners gossiping on the bench outside the entrances, the machismo impregnating the atmosphere so thickly, you could cut it with a knife.” Marina Sofia

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Historical Fiction

Atlantic View by Matthew Geyer

I first met Matt virtually several years ago now when we both glowingly reviewed Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary on Amazon US. An exchange of comments on each other’s reviews led me to discover that Matt had written his own novel, Strays, which I subsequently read and greatly enjoyed. Matt has recently started his own blog where he will be reviewing literary fiction as well as telling us about his own writing journey. This is his second novel, and I’m thrilled that he’s included a quote from my review of Strays on the back cover! 

The Blurb says: Set against the backdrop of the Obama presidential election, Atlantic View is the story of how Patrick Munchen loses his job, his wife and his way, only to discover an improbable new path with the support of his daughter, Megan. As the hope for change turns sour in the wake of another American election, the end of one way of life becomes the beginning of another.

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Crime

A Matter of Motive by Margot Kinberg

Margot used to blog about crime fiction and has introduced me to a whole world of authors I didn’t know about over the years we’ve been blog buddies. Her blog is much missed, but if stopping blogging has given her more time for writing then I forgive her! Previously she has written four books starring her academic amateur detective, Joel Williams, the most recent being Downfall. This new one, though, is a departure from that series – a standalone.

The Blurb says: A man is dead in his car, slumped over the steering wheel. But who killed him? Ron Clemons is the last person you’d think would be murdered. His wife and son love him. His employees respect him. His business is doing well. His clients seek him out. But someone wanted him dead.The Clemons case is a golden opportunity for newly minted police detective Patricia Stanley to prove herself. It’s her first murder investigation and she wants to do well. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, she has plenty to learn about handling a murder. And nearly everyone involved in this one is hiding something. Patricia faces her own challenges, too, as the investigation brings back the murder of an old love.

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Crime in Translation 2

Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu

A second selection from Corylus Books, and this one is translated by our very own Marina Sofia herself! The paper publication has been held up due to the ongoing situation with the pesky plague, but the Kindle version is available for pre-order and will be out on 8th May. Another excellent reason for having a Kindle…

The Blurb says: As a shadowy killer stalks the streets of Bucharest, seeking out victims from among the Roma minority, the police are at a loss to track down the murderer, who always dispatches in the same manner – hence the Sword nickname the media are quick to give to the killer. As panic starts to take hold and inter-racial tensions begin to reach boiling point, those in government and those who want to be try to manipulate the situation for their own ends.

A bestseller in Romania and France, Sword is a tumultuous political thriller by journalist and political analyst Bogdan Teodorescu – echoing much of the fears and tensions of today’s political landscape.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?