It is always interesting to approach a novel written by an unfamiliar author, especially if it is a debut novel, so I had no expectations about Robert Lukins’ The Everlasting Sunday.
Set in the Winter of 1962 – England’s coldest winter since the mid-1600s – it is the story of a group of adolescent boys brought together in an old Shropshire mansion, Goodwin Manor. These are all lads who have been “found by trouble” and we meet the main character, 17-year old Radford, as he is being driven there by his taciturn uncle. He is dropped off at the door and the uncle drives away into the storm.
This is a challenging book, with many questions unanswered and relationships unresolved. Most of the residents are adolescent boys who have been ‘found by trouble’ and sent here to mend their ways. Teddy, an elderly man with problems of his own, is head of the house, aided by Lillian, housekeeper and a genuinely warm influence in an otherwise pretty barren environment.
I was looking forward to speaking with Robert and I was certainly not disappointed. He was delightful, easy to chat with, and of course highly articulate. He had been a postman in Shropshire for a number of years, so knew the area very well and said he had been strongly influenced by his memory of the countryside, the houses and the general environment.
The memory of it had stayed vividly with him and obviously he was almost reliving those days as he wrote this book.
There is stark drama, anger, brutality at times but also warmth, empathy and a bond between unlikely characters. We share their bonding, their anger, their escapades but never learn what brought them there.
Robert agreed that Winter played a dominant role in his story and was almost a character in its own right. We both felt Lillian was an intriguing minor character and he said he was tempted to write a story of her life before Goodwin Manor.
This book is beautifully written, with prose almost like poetry in parts, and I couldn’t resist reading out a couple of paragraphs to illustrate this.
I really loved this book and enjoyed Robert’s distinctive literary style.
I’m looking forward to his next offering, whatever the story line may be!
Publishers: UQP / Penguin Random House