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Book Review: Mary’s the Name by Ross Sayers

 

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A satisfying, original and heart-warming read. A cracking debut from Ross Sayers.

It’s always a good sign reading wise when I find that the characters from my read-in-progress stay with me between reading stints and remain in my head after I’ve finished the book. This was definitely the case with Mary’s the Name. The book will be published on the 30th January and is available here for pre-order now.

This is Ross Sayers’s debut novel and it bodes well for his future career as a novelist. Due to be published in February by Cranachan, it’s another high quality addition to this recently established Scottish publisher’s already excellent fiction list.

It’s difficult to classify this book. It’s contemporary, Scottish-based fiction, but there’s nothing twee or shortbread tin about it. It’s humorous in places, but it also has its darker moments too. There’s a violent robbery at the heart of the plot, but it’s not crime fiction. The story is narrated by an eight-year-old, but it’s definitely not a children’s book.

Eight-year-old orphan, Mary, lives in Stirling with her grandfather. And it’s Mary who tells the story. She’s a bit of an outsider at school, is the target of some bullying because her lack of parents makes her different, and her best and only friend has just dropped her in favour of someone new. However, Mary is stoical and resilient, and she finds comfort in Elvis, playing the keyboard, and in her close relationship with Granpa.

Then after a robbery at the bookies where Granpa works, Mary and her grandfather have to go on the run. They flee to the Isle of Skye. She makes a new friend with whom she has various adventures and she continues to try to make sense of what exactly is going on with Granpa and the other adults in her life. In spite of everything, Mary finds she enjoys life in the island’s main town of Portree.

But the robbers are in pursuit and for Mary and Granpa their new life is soon under threat.

It’s no easy task for an author to tell an adult story through the eyes of a child, but Sayers manages it well. I was drawn to Mary from the off. Her take on the story’s events never strays from what an eight-year-old is capable of perceiving but the reader still gets a clear enough picture of what’s going on. And even although what Granpa is up to may be dubious, Mary’s faith in him and his love for her keeps the reader on his side.

All the characters are vivid and realistic and seeing them through Mary’s eyes just adds to their appeal. There’s a real charm in Mary’s partial understanding of events and people and seeing things through her eyes only adds to the book’s appeal.

Skye provided an excellent backdrop and speaking as a resident of the island, it was great to see it so realistically portrayed.

The pace of the narrative is brisk and the tone matter-of-fact and this works equally well for both the light and dark moments of the story.

The ending is unexpected but believable and it is in keeping with everything that goes before in that it manages to be both happy and sad.

This book is a satisfying, original and heart-warming read.

Type of Read: A binge read. It demands to be quickly devoured so put the do-not-disturb sign up and get comfy.

Back Cover Blurb:

Mary’s the Name is published by Cranachan and is available to pre-order now as a paperback or as an ebook. (Publication date is 30th January 2017).

I was provided with a pre-publication proof copy of this novel by the publisher. There was no requirement to write a review.

 

 

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