By Auriel Roe
A composite comic novel; thirteen interconnected stories that take place over forty years. Its setting is Blindefellows, a second rate public school in the West Country
Monday, 16 October 2017
Another Ping! on the review-ometre
I noticed on Goodreads that 950 people so far have saved Blindefellows to read. Good reviews like the one below by author Madhuika Liddle on Goodreads, who gave Blindefellows 4/5, are helping things along so please add one if you have a moment (doesn't have to be as long and detailed as this one!)...
'Blindefellows, established several hundred years ago as a charity school for blind boys, is now a school for those who can afford it. The boys (and, later, girls as well) who study in it are an interesting lot (who don’t, for instance, think twice about herding the school’s resident herd of sheep into the library and holding them—along with a history teacher, the mild-mannered and somewhat nervous Sedgewick—captive in order to have their demands met).
But more interesting than the students are the teachers at Blindefellows. Sedgewick himself, completely immersed in history. Japes, who takes Sedgewick under his wing and tries to get him to take as avid an interest in women as Japes does. Bunny and Clive and Crane. Matron Ridgeway, who inadvertently storms a male bastion—and emerges triumphant. Gosling, who tries to save a neighbouring wood by climbing a tree and ends up a celebrity.
A Blindefellows Chronicle stretches over forty years, beginning in 1974 and ending in 2014. The stories that comprise this book aren’t strictly in a form that make it a novel, even though the settings and the characters are the same, or at least connected. Instead, rather like Lawrence Durrell’s Antrobus Complete, these are vignettes with a common thread running through them. A rebellion is staged. A group of students is taken to France on an educational trip. A Maori rugby teacher comes to Blindefellows as part of an exchange programme. The school receives an unexpected bequest from a cantankerous ex-teacher.
I got this book as part of a giveaway from Auriel Roe, who mentioned that it was inspired by Wodehouse. Which, of course, interested me: Wodehouse is one of my favourite writers, and one I admire immensely. But no, A Blindefellows Chronicle isn’t quite Wodehouse. There is the occasional resemblance—especially in the characters, many of whom are immediately recognizable as having shades of Wodehouse’s characters, like Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeleine Bassett, Gally Threepwood, even perhaps Lord Emsworth. Some of the minor incidents and events—the international picnic, the show to mark a landmark anniversary—sound rather Wodehousian. The bulk of the book, however, is notWodehouse. It’s far more modern, of course; it’s also more sexed up. It has a good bit of poignancy, especially near the end. I haven’t read anything by Auriel Roe before, but I’d probably guess this is more Roe than Wodehouse.
Eventually, though, this is a book that deserves to stand on its own and not try to lean on Wodehouse or his work. It’s an amusing (at times outright hilarious), interesting, fast-moving, and immensely readable book in its own right.'