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Lindsey's Literary Leanings

Book Reviews - Contemporary Fiction / Biographies / Autobiographies

  • Lindsey Skelton-Smith

Barney & Son (Author: John Guthrie)


Barney & Son (Book Cover)

Thought Provoking, Heartwarming, Gripping

Genre: Historical Fiction

‘Barney & Son’ By John Guthrie

Barney & Ernie are living hand to mouth, no change there then, and having lost their ‘accommodation’ they are now homeless and on the streets. Food is acquired, not stolen as Barney has devised his own way of ‘paying it forward’…or back, depending on your point of view. Either way, it carries no guilt. Barney meets an old acquaintance who solves their living arrangements and things seem to be on the up for the father and son, but when Barney agrees to take part in a job, in exchange for the room, things don’t quite go to plan…


I literally didn’t do anything other than read over the two and a half days following being asked to read this book, other than eating and sleeping (and that was resented) and charge my phone due to running down the battery from reading on Kindle Unlimited . I chose to use KU because the hard copy is a little out of my current book budget, but I intend to buy it when used copies become available. I also wanted to read it immediately.


Although I have read and reviewed many books over the last nine months and am confident in my ability to produce good work, in this case, I am not at all convinced that I have the vocabulary, the eloquence or enough ink in my pen required to write the number of positive adjectives to expound or do justice to the level at which I adored this book.


Barney is an extremely charming, eloquent chancer who most certainly has the gift of the gab. He has taught his boy well in the way of ‘living off your wits’ and both do it always with a cheery disposition. Barney’s cheeky ‘if-you-don’t-ask-you-don’t-get’ attitude, made me smile many times throughout .


Much like with John’s book ‘Ellie & The Nubb Street Players’, the child character, in this case Ernie, appears wise beyond his years, and having watched his father, he has learnt how to get what he wants. In the same way as his Father, he does it courteously and with a good nature…well, most of the time. Together, they make a very good team. I also liked the similarity of how both Anna and Ellie from ‘Ellie And The Nubb Street Players’ ended up in the trust of bad people, although the predicaments that the girls found themselves in differed.


Once again, as with the other book to which I have referred, the characters that I have mentioned put me in mind of those from ‘Oliver’, Barney and Ernie being very much like The Artful Dodger and Fagin (in the original film), although Barney is maybe a younger man as Ernie is eleven. The character of Austin, I could only imagine as the Child Catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and whilst he is undoubtedly evil to the core, I couldn’t help laughing at the dialogue of the rich landowner. His inner thoughts of putting a pillow over his ailing mother’s face are in stark contrast to the impression that he gives people, that he cares for his mother and his brother, whilst completely loathing both, for me, brought a comedic quality to the character.


The way the author uses a ‘courteous sarcasm’ in the conversations of the brothers were an absolute joy to read. Austin maintains a tone that conveys a disparaging false regard for his brother’s well-being. Bernard attempts something resembling a normal conversation, but tiring of his brother’s single mindedness to undermine him, he gives in to Austin’s attitude and ends up parroting back to Austin what his brother appears to feel are Bernard’s shortcomings. You can sense Bernard’s sense of defeat against his more business savvy, greedy, ambitious sibling.


When the character of Mr Drummer is originally mentioned, I saw him as a side character, brought in to help Ernie out of his troubles. When he was then mentioned for a second time at the end of a much further chapter, I must admit to having a mild panic having forgotten who he was. Thankfully, the author seems to have anticipated this and provides the reader with a reminder.


The whole text flowed so well and the dialogue was lively, engaging and well constructed, making the characters come to life with a subtle humour where appropriate. Two particular excerpts that I enjoyed were Barney’s pie analogy in chapter one regarding Ernie’s suggestion of his education. It was very clever and made me chuckle and was one of the first clues that I was going to find reading the book a pleasant experience. Also, I had never heard of the word ‘Hobbledehoy’, and I dare say I won’t be the only one.


If any part, the only part of the novel that I found to be more challenging was on the prison ship, but that’s only down to a lack of personal knowledge on my part. I found it hard to visualise, which I like to do. Thank God for Google! So, as well as entertaining, parts of the narrative have also turned out to be an education.

I shall continue to follow John on my socials and read what he recommends, as I am aware that he writes in a variety of genres. I am in awe of his writing and way with words and would love to see him become a firmly established author in the years to come.

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