A Limey in the Court of Uncle Sam by Ken Wise

Cover of A Limey in the Court of Uncle Sam by Ken WiseAny 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.

  • You can order A Limey in the Court of Uncle Sam from Amazon here
  • Ken Wise’s latest book, Estate Agents Beware,  is now available from publishing services consultancy SilverWood Books.
  • Find out more about Ken Wise via his website, www.kenwiseauthor.com.
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4 thoughts on “A Limey in the Court of Uncle Sam by Ken Wise

  1. Great review, Debbie. Enjoyed it a lot and will get hold of Ken’s book on the strength of it alone. I used the term “picaresque”, by the way, to describe my own novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice. It appeared in the Acknowledgements section and I think I’ve had more queries and comments about THAT than any other aspect of its 650 pages. I was taught Spanish in the 60s by a lovely bloke who had a passion for Cervantes and the other writers of the picaresque school, as well as the modern authors (Miguel Delibes, etc) who have kept the tradition alive. Anyway, well done to Debbie AND Ken.

    • Thanks, Dave! I’m sure you’ll find Ken Wise’s book interesting. If you’re able to post a review it, I’m sure the author would appreciate it! (I’ve put a slightly shorter review on his Amazon page too and will also put it on GoodReads when I get a moment.) Really interesting that you had so many comments on your use of the word “picaresque” – I think it’s a great word and a really enjoyable genre. I must get round to reading “Don Quixote” as I’m sure I’ll love Cervantes (though must make sure I find a good translation as I don’t speak Spanish). For years I put off reading “War and Peace” and when I finally got round to it, I adored it and wished I’d had the experience sooner!

  2. No problem. I’ll get a copy as soon as I’m back in the UK and then post a review. So far as Cervantes is concerned, there are now several decent translations of Quijote but he also wrote quite a few shorter (and more fathomable) “picaresque” novels, like Rinconete y Cortadillo, which are also available in English. Otherwise, look out for a translation of the Miguel Delibes novel, El Camino. It’s wonderful!!!

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