This month’s fave read was originally recommended to me a few months ago, and I ordered a copy just after Christmas. The reading list has been a little bit backed up since baby M arrived, but having finally managed to get around to reading The Radio by Jonathan Lee I am kicking myself for not listening to my trusted bookworm friend and reading it there and then.
That would mean that I could have been already working my way through another piece of work by this very talented independent UK author.
The Radio by Jonathan Lee is a really, really good read and kept me entertained from start to finish, with the odd spell of laugh out loud moments.
This is British black humour at its best as it follows the bitter-sweet and strangely heartwarming withdrawal and decline of our ‘hero’ George Poppleton as he detaches himself from the reality of his family and home life.
The focal point of the story is an old portable radio that George finds in the loft which soon becomes the catalyst for his mental escape, donning the headphones to shut out the rants and warblings of his wife and the pretty obnoxious behaviour of his daughter.
“He smiled to himself as he read the red lettering on the front of the radio, whispering “Saisho” wistfully as if recalling a long-forgotten love.”
Around George family life goes on and escalates into a surprise wedding being planned between George’s daughter and an extremely unsuitable suitor, which does culminate in one of the most fascinating engagement parties ever portrayed in print or any other media (without giving anything away you can hear the glass breaking and feel the punches landing)!
This all feels very entertaining, and it is, but lurking at the back of the story throughout is the tragic side of George’s family life and darkness and dealing with a loved one’s suicide from years ago, or perhaps as you realise through the final third of the book maybe NOT dealing with the suicide at all?
It is clear that George has dedicated his adult life to serving his family, and continues to do so by being practically the only adult who really looks after his granddaughter Mollie, and from this you can believe that George was never allowed or able to deal with the tragedy that transpired when he was a younger man and father.
The author leaves much open to interpretation and never once gives you the feeling that he is leading you by the hand into a certain emotional state or behavioural understanding, rather he writes things and just leaves them there for you to either understand, discuss or ignore.
For me this book is a lesson about ‘keeping it all in’ and a reminder that mental health is our most precious asset…you can suffer in silence and maintain a very British stiff upper lip, which is very convenient for others around you, but ultimately delivers the same end result as a snake swallowing its own tail.
I wish I knew George, I’d have talked to him – he is a most loveable main character and he makes you smile as a reader throughout most of the book and you take delight in his escapism into the orange foam covered headphones from his Saisho radio, but the twist at the end is both heart-breaking and incredible at the same time.
If you let it get under your skin then The Radio will stay with you for a while, and the abrupt ending seems devised to set up a revisit at some point in the future. This book is positioned as part one in a trilogy, of which part two, The Page, is already published…so guess what has already been delivered by Amazon?
Loved every minute of reading The Radio by Jonathan Lee and really pleased to have discovered this author who appears to be a very promising up and coming British writer. The Radio is highly recommended and is available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.
You can find out more about the author on his own website at www.jonathanleeauthor.com.