This is another extraordinary creation by Stuart Ayris. It begins with a painfully accurate observation of a couple who still live together, but no longer communicate. On a whim they set off in their long-neglected campervan, Flo, who takes them to a music festival. An odd character, Purple Alice, persuades them to try a curious purple drink and their adventure begins as they find themselves in a world of talking animals, bizarre people and strange happenings.
There is a similarity to the theme of Alice in Wonderland, (hence, of course, the play on words in the title), but that similarity is only superficial. In this wonderland we find the author at his exuberant, whimsical best in a place where language is a flexible toy for creative play. If the word he needs doesn’t already exist, he invents it – and we instinctively know what he means. If a phrase sounds particularly fine, he’ll repeat it. His trademark pop music references abound – is there another author who would give us a character called Judy Judy Judy? Vivid images are thrown at us in rapid succession. From time to time he addresses the reader directly to make sure we’re still involved.
As they progress through the wonderland the couple see glimpses of their own and each other’s past lives and come to an understanding of their relationship in the real world.
It took me ages to read this book. I had to keep re-reading passages for the pure enjoyment of the writing that frequently feels more like poetry than conventional prose.
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Here we have a fine collection of characters: some heroes, some villains, but mainly people doing what we all do – getting through life as best we can. A supernatural element runs through it and we are led to a finish that is signposted at various stages in the book. When the expected end duly arrives there was no sense of anti-climax; instead I nodded with approval and thought, ‘Yes, that’s how it had to be.’
If you haven’t yet read a Stuart Ayris book then I urge you to do so. But you need to set aside any preconceptions about what a novel ought to be, then relax and let the author take you on an adventure where you will laugh, cry and sing – possibly all at the same time.
Both the author’s exuberance and his concern for his fellow man shine through. If the precise word that he needs doesn’t exist, either for meaning or to simply sound right in the context, then he creates a new one – and we know instinctively just what it means. He breaks away from the storyline to have personal chats with the reader. Although this tale is set in 18th century England, lines from 20th century songs appear. This may sound like chaotic literary anarchy, but it’s hugely entertaining. In amongst the humour and pathos are very perceptive comments on what is generally referred to as the human condition.
It’s a unique style and one that really works for this reader. More reviews can be found on Amazon The Magical Tragical Life of Edward Jarvis Huggins
This is the final part in the Frugality trilogy. On review sites like Amazon and Goodreads, that ask for books to be rated, I keep 5-star reviews for books that I find truly exceptional. I gave this one 5 and, if I could, I’d have given it 10.
The writing style has developed through the trilogy into an extraordinary, free-flowing pouring forth of prose that is frequently poetic. At times I was reminded of Under Milk Wood and Ulysses, but comparisons can’t do it justice. It is unique – not so much a book, more a volcanic eruption of words, ideas and fears with the author as the central character. In a structure I’ve never seen before, the author writes himself into the novel as he joins the characters from the second book in a search for the central character of the first.
What makes it so powerful is not just the content, but the fact that, although this is nominally a novel, it is based on reality. The appalling event that is central to the story, and makes clear earlier events, actually happened.
Through the three books the author has given us hints: little baited hooks to capture us and draw us on. At last we get to that crucial event that explains what lies behind. It is so vividly described that merely reading it is a gut-wrenching, soul-twisting experience.
Of course, this is faction and we don’t know which parts of the rest of the trilogy are based on reality, but it is more than enough to know the truth of that key event. I hope that the experience of writing the books has been sufficiently cathartic to allow the author to come to terms with his past and live with peace of mind.
I bought the book for Kindle from Amazon where print copies are also available. I Woke Up This Morning: FRUGALITY: Book 3
This is the second book in the Frugality trilogy by Stuart Ayris. The majority of readers who have reviewed this book on Amazon have used the word ‘beautiful’ in their review. If I may, I would like to ask you to stop for a moment and consider the significance of this simple fact. We may regularly describe a flower as beautiful, or a view, or a woman, but to describe the work of a writer as beautiful is moving the use of the word to a higher plane of meaning. The writer’s output is just words on a page; that output cannot be intrinsically beautiful. If beauty exists it lies within the power of those words to move and inspire the reader.
Stuart Ayris’ work may be humourous, it may be exuberant, but it IS beautiful.
This book has a more straightforward, coherent plot than Tollesbury, but ultimately the plot doesn’t matter because this is essentially a study of humanity and human relationships. Don’t feel you have to read Tollesbury first as the only connection is the basic theme, but you WILL want to read it after reading this one, so you may as well read it first!
This is what indie writing/publishing should be all about – using the freedom to publish work that is so original that traditional publishers are frightened to touch it.
I urge you to read this book. It is very different from Tollesbury Time Forever and I have the feeling that we are being set up for something special in the final book.
I bought the book for Kindle from Amazon where print copies are also available. The Bird That Nobody Sees: FRUGALITY: Book 2
This book is the first in what the author has entitled his ‘Frugality’ trilogy. When I read it I had no idea that two more were to follow. It is one of those rare books that actually deserves the ‘literary’ tag, being an expression of ideas and philosophy rather than action. Apart from being literary, it defies genre classification. It is essentially an exploration of mental health issues and we are taken into the thought processes of Simon Anthony, a sufferer from mental illness, who lives in the village of Tollesbury in the Essex marshes.
The author has a unique style. Thoughts and words flow in an uninhibited stream. If a word has the meaning he seeks, but doesn’t sound right within the context, he makes up his own word. At times the prose has a rhythm and a beauty that is captivating. Poetry, prose and song lyrics all blend together.
The author is a mental health nurse, with his own problems. There is a feeling that this is a book that had to be written. That feeling continues through the other two books in the trilogy.
This is a book that can change attitudes – and there aren’t many of those around.
I bought my copy for Kindle from Amazon where print copies are also available. Tollesbury Time Forever: FRUGALITY: Book 1