Keeping Mum by James Gould – Bourn
Publishing Date: 11th June 2020
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Danny Malooley’s life is falling apart.
He’s a single parent with an eleven-year-old son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash fourteen months ago. He’s being pursued by a dodgy landlord for unpaid rent and, to make matters worse, he’s just lost his job on a building site. Struggling to find work, and desperate for money, Danny decides to do what anyone in his position would do.
He becomes a dancing panda.
After seeing street performers in his local park raking it in, he puts all sense of pride aside and spends his last fiver on a vomit-ridden costume… only to discover that the humiliation of his terrible rhythm is worth it. Not because he’s flush with cash (quite the opposite) but Will has finally spoken to him for the first time since his mother’s death. The problem is Will is unaware that the panda is in fact his father, and Danny doesn’t want to reveal his true identity in case Will stops talking to him. But Danny can’t keep up the ruse forever.
A surprising, laugh-out-loud and uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Danny Mallony and his son Will have lost their wife and mother in a tragic car accident about a year ago. Liz was not only Danny’s wife but also his best friend, and together with her death he feels as if he has lost his son as well because Will simply stopped speaking. Then Danny gets himself fired from work and his landlord starts to threaten to harm him and some of his body parts because he’s late with the rent. There are no jobs out there for Danny, so it’s not a wonder that, in desperation, and with his last money, he purchases a panda suit and becomes a street performer. Dancing panda. The problem is, Danny can’t dance. However, it’s not the end of the problems because soon Danny is a witness how his son is being bullied. And then Will starts to talk – to the panda.
James Gould – Bourn has created incredible characters, real and authentic and while yes,
sure, they are also a bit clichéd and stereotyped, what with Mark the bully, or Reg the landlord, they work in this book and they are breathing and moving and jumping off the pages. Effortlessly. The background characters were phenomenal – I have never came across such brilliantly written secondaries, and Krystal must have been my favourite. Krystal with her potty mouth that would make any sailor blush, telling things how they are, not beating around the bush, full of glitter and glamour, offending with every word but deep, deep inside she was such a good fairy and I loved her totally. But no matter how much I laughed at their banter and shenanigans, they added tons of depth to the story.
And don’t forget Will’s new teacher! It’s amazing how much attention the author paid to the smallest details, taking care about things and events that we would have probably not spotted. I tell you, this book is perfect. The way the author has dealt with grief and its impact on the affected, the old – new father – son relationship, the challenges life brings is cleverly written, it’s sharp and empathetic. I loved what he did with Will – he created a strong, resilient boy who had weaker moments and I felt for him immediately, but he didn’t make him a victim that can’t stand for himself. Yes, Will was bullied and he suffered but I couldn’t stop admire his inner strength and the ability to not take things so much to heart.
And whatever happened, Danny never gave up, and this is what I really liked in him. He kept things going, not wanting Will to discover how bad the situation is. He wasn’t afraid of work, and nothing was too strange or weird to Danny, his priority was always his son and he did things in a way he though are right.
The writing style, and the storytelling, were exceptionally good. I loved the banter the author used in his story, and I loved the situational comedy. He has perfectly blended sadness and humour together, let’s just think about Ivan and his reactions, Jesus, the moment when they were looking for wood for example had me laughing out loud, and not only because of Ivan and his fears but because of the dialogue between the security people – really, guys, whatever you do, buy this book and thank me later, it’s so, so good, it’s more than good, it’s the best book I’ve read this year. I’d say, be careful Mike Gayle, there is a new author in town! But back to the writing, that was funny without being sarcastic – because it didn’t need to be in that case, and engaging.
The probably only thing that didn’t sit with me so much was the title. I don’t know but it somehow didn’t work, and I’m guessing it was also published as “Bear Necessity”? I must admit I like it much better. Or even “Pandemonium” sounds great to me 🙂 Or “Panda Days”.
About the end… I loved what has happened in the pub, it was so unexpected and so karma – wise, ha, it was simply brilliant. However, I have been expecting something more for Danny, been building my hope through the whole story to be honest – am probably reading too many romances. Sigh. Oh well. Maybe there will be something more from the author about Danny in the future.
I truly adored this book, from the start to the end, and I was sad when I’ve reached the final pages as it’s really this kind of book that you don’t want to end. I can’t remember the last time a book left me feeling so warm inside as “Keeping Mum” did. It was a poignant and also incredibly funny father – son story that had me captivated right from the first page. It touched upon so many important things: grief, hope, friendship, trying to reconnect, trying to keep going no matter what, about second chances. It was absolutely unique story that I’m going to buy in paperback as well to keep re – reading it all the time. Truly, highly recommended!
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR: