Any novel whose title alludes to Mark Twain, one of my writing heroes, is bound to get more than a second glance from me, so I was intrigued when I came across this book whose title echoes Twain’s tale A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The intrigue was in fact two-fold, because in one way I identified with its central character, a young Englishman who goes to live in the the States – something I did myself for a year as a child. I vividly remember being called a Limey – and resenting it!
This book follows the life of young Ken West from birth to retirement. It begins with an engagingly lyrical and affectionate portrait of his boyhood in Reading. This was the section included in the free sample I downloaded from Kindle. I enjoyed the free sample so much that as soon as I reached the end, I eagerly clicked “buy now” so that I could carry on reading straight away. (Kindle’s free sampling option is a great salesman!)
This engaging novel reads like a cross between an autobiography and a picaresque tale – an old-fashioned term that you don’t hear much these days but which www.dictionary.com defines as “a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in realistic detail, the everyday life of the common people”.
Ken’s entry in the American Air Force soon segues into a whole raft of different careers. I could not but admire Ken’s chameleon shifts from country to country and industry to industry, and it was interesting to read about life behind the scenes in his various jobs. I was also impressed by his energy and his ability to embrace change. I use that last phrase advisedly, for he changes girlfriends and wives (and sometimes both at the same time) with an extraordinary frequency.
Although sometimes I found myself urging “No, Ken, don’t do it!” or tutting “Oh, Ken!”, I enjoyed this romp which felt like sitting listening to someone’s life story over a pint in the pub. I was also mightily relieved when he finally reached retirement in one piece and with a measure of self-knowledge and contentment after all the ups and downs. I felt pretty contented myself – and not a little exhausted – when my Kindle informed me I’d finally finished the book.
Although the author’s other works are in a different genre (they are thrillers), I enjoyed his easy, open style and his company enough to download another of his books to fill the void left once I’d archived Limey. Ken Wise is one of those authors where, when you’ve read one book, you hanker after their next, and are very glad to find out they’ve written some more.