Life has a lot to offer, and If there was a city to exemplify that, London would be it. So how can someone be bored with life living in this mad city? A simple and short introduction to a book with an intriguing title draws one to a somewhat enigmatic, yet deeply insightful book that offers everything, by an author who will certainly offer much more.
Long serving LSE Professor Steve Smithson has just published his first novel “The Man Who Sang Along”, the story of Richard, a middle aged man at the cross roads of a past life and at the cusp of a new one: an end of a marriage, a new home and the promise of a new page. Moments of clarity sometimes come at unexpected times and in strange forms. In Richard’s case, it comes in the form of a stuffed owl. Moving out of a place he called home, leaving behind a relationship that he had become disillusioned with, two grown up sons that have left the nest, and an old car, Richard has little individual possessions to take with him to a flatshare in Mudchute in East London: a few Greatful Dead CDs amongst other cult musicians, some clothes, and the stuffed owl.
The story begins with a life now behind him, and journey full of surprises, to which the novel carries itself nicely, with episode after episode that resembles the randomness of a London night bus: alcohol rich, unexpected, and hugely entertaining, if one keeps an arms length detachment from a surreal existence.
From Epping , to a council flat in Bermondsey , Richard travels to Jamaica, gets infatuated with a young lady, and changes a job he has held for decades. The journey unravels, as the storyline flows as entertainingly as it is surreal that the reader is bound to get engulfed in the story that shuffles back and forth between past and present, reality, imagination, and optimism for the future.
For Londoners , the book strikes a chord: Boring and self-absorbed colleagues, complicated family relationships, in a tough town: who has not had his hand in Jamaican weed and, who has not felt the melancholy of X-mas in London? Under the watchful eye of his friend D’Arcy, Richard realizes that “times they are a changing”.
With an eloquently simple and creative writing style, Smithson leaves a trail of breadcrumbs throughout the book, that leaves a point to ponder: can a stuffed owl symbolize changing times?