Richmond Road by Miles Hughes
Best Book of the Month – November 2013
Sitting next to his grandson who lies in a hospital bed due to a coma brought about by a recent suicide attempt, George Bender decides to explain the story of his life to the young man who remains in silence beside him. While his grandson had aimed to give up on life, George still holds on to the memories that both delight and haunt him. ‘Richmond Road’ by Miles Hughes then takes us back, as George’s tale begins in the early 1900s in New Zealand. When his father dies he is forced to enter the high-risk stakes of gambling in order to provide for his family, but it isn’t long before he is taken to prison as a result of his erroneous ways. While George is locked away, his brother Daniel is called off to the Great War, and by the time George is released and Daniel returns, his brother is a different man, shell shocked from the horrendous events that he witnessed out on the battlefield. As George recounts these stories to his ailing grandson, he is forced to come to terms with the guilt he feels over the tragedy that befalls his brother.
This novel contains many literary elements, making it a joy to read as the descriptions Hughes offers are painted in such elegant ways. George’s story is told not as a straightforward life tale, but rather as a narrative that unfolds due to him telling the story from his own perspective, a touch that creates an urgency in the words he shares with his grandson. The story has both amusing and distressing components that are delivered in a well-paced trajectory, so the words on the page never seem rushed or overcomplicated. The characters, especially George, are fully developed and human to their core, causing the reader to both sympathize and identify with them. Richmond Road is a fully imagined and engaging novel that will speak to anyone whose family has been faced with hard times.
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