Not everyone feels every earthquake. Some are felt by just one family, around a hospital bed, or through days of subtle but devastating change, in one boy's struggle to draw a roadmap for his own life. Not every river is mighty, some flow quiet and dark, rushing beneath the concrete towers in which some of us live. Tom has wept and Tom will write, to find his way, and emerge in culvert sunsets. More
Culvert Sunsets begins with the predicament of a recently retired postman, Jack Deakin, and intimates at the wilderness of retirement for those for whom the routine of work has provided structure and purpose. However, the story is told from the perspective of his son, Tom, who graduated two years earlier, having taken four years to complete a degree after experiencing a crisis during his first year. Both men now find themselves in a hiatus, one of those dilated and difficult periods everyone faces at one time or another, a time of re-evaluations, adjustments and introspection. Tom is using the process of writing to try to gain some understanding of the shifting landscape of his life: his brother’s marital break-up, his father’s near-fatal heart attack and his own sense of attachment to the past. This novel is a reflection on the nature of narratives with their clingings and re-writings and the mercilessness of the past tense. Tom hopes that by representing these experiences, by externalising them, some pattern or answer may emerge through which he can make sense of the present.
Culvert Sunsets in part explores the relationship between philosophical ideas and the lives and struggles of an ordinary working family. Set in London in 1990 it is permeated with the atmosphere of that era whilst always foregrounding its cast of engaging and sympathetic characters. Philosophy is not contained within an academic discipline: the negotiaton with the world and with oneself through ideas and attitudes is the very stuff of life, and narrative.
As each chapter unfolds Tom writes about his memories of childhood and early adult life, which piece together some of the history of the family and the events which have lead them to this point. The story oscillates between these past scenes and the present until it catches up with itself and in the final section we are in the present of the writing itself. This ordinary family are portrayed in all their complexity, as well as with dark humour, as they struggle to navigate through trauma and change. There is also a development in the Tom as he moves from the self-sufficient solipsism of the early chapters towards a growing appreciation of the significance of others and the redeeming importance of friendship and parenthood.
The novel’s themes of responsibility and self-acceptance are undercurrents or backdrops to these characters and their lives. I have tried to use language which has energy and is perhaps even at times poetic. I very much hope you will read my book as I believe, with its twist at the end, it will repay the effort.
All of the characters in this novel are fictional, as are the events – apart from one.
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