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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 5 July 2020

"Exchange" by Paul Magrs

Simon's mum and dad are dead; he lives with his gran Winnie and his granddad Ray. He and his gran are great readers; one day they discover the The Great Big Book Exchange, a second-hand bookshop with a difference, run by Terrance who has plastic hands and Goth teenager Kelly. Will Ray and Winnie split up after a lifetime of friction? Will Simon and Kelly find love? And will the planned reunion between Winnie and her childhood friend best-selling novelist Ada be an unmitigated disaster?

A coming-of-age story told with unusual realism and sensitivity.

It has a neat construction: some spoilers in this analysis
Part One: Introductions

  • Simon and gran discover the Exchange at about 10%
  • Just before 20% we get the first mention of gran's childhood friend, the best-selling author; at the same time granddad becomes angry about gran's reading. 
  • We are introduced to Kelly just before 25%

Part Two: Rising tensions: Gran and granddad start to argue; Simon starts to go off the rails with Kelly

  • At 35% Kelly comes to tea
  • At 40% Simon and Kelly bunk off school to have a day in town. Simon has discovered grandad has a stash of glamour magazines. Grandad and gran are starting to argue and Simon suspects that gran might be falling for the man who runs the Exchange. 
  • At 50% gran and granddad have a major argument. 

Part Three: The hero is coerced into doing something bad; it has a bad consequence

  • Kelly proposes taking gran to meet Ada at about 60% and funding the cost by stealing granddad's glamour magazines.
  • The theft takes place at about 70%
  • Granddad burns the books in the house at the 75% mark

Part Four: Resolutions

  • After a brilliantly crafted literary lunch in which the tension keeps rising - will Ada and Winnie actually get on when they meet? - the actual meeting takes place at about 87%
  • But now, granddad, unwell, goes out in the snow to search for gran while gran goes off with her new friend: this keeps the tension going till the 95% mark.
  • And then the epilogue in which not all is resolved.
One niggle: I did feel that granddad's story wasn't quite resolved.

Some great moments:

  • "He found he didn't want to take up much space." (C 1)
  • "I just drift along ... collecting this stuff together. Any old stuff. No judgement, no value. No real choosing." (C 2)
  • "I'll never have enough time to read all the books I want to." (C 2)
  • "Honest? Straightforward? You can't even lie straight in your bed at night." (C 9)
  • "He thought about how precarious his memory was. Real things could be lost for ever. He would forget. Inevitably, he would forget all kinds of things." (C 9)
  • "Change was something that simply happened to you. You yourself didn't make change happen. Instead you were at its mercy. ... Change could pick you up; it could pick up everyone and everything in your life and it could wantonly destroy and randomise every factor. It could dump your whole life down again, altered out of all recognition." (C 11)

July 2020; 295 pages

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