Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Passing Tribute by Simon Marshall. Imagine if historical fiction met war fiction and mystery, and then had a Hemingwayesque lunch with a slice of Clockwork Orange vibe.
This is Simon’s second novel. In 2015 he self-published The Long Drawn Aisle, then immediately started work researching and writing The Passing Tribute.
A political historian at heart, Simon read modern history at UCL before gaining an MA distinction in Imperial and Commonwealth History at King’s College London. It was during these studies that his profound and ongoing fascination with the pre and post WW1 European settlement was stirred, and it has inspired both of his novels to date.
Simon was born and raised in London, but has lived and worked for most of the past decade in France. With youthful pretensions to screenwriting and poetry, prose has taken over and he has worked variously as a private tutor, English language teacher, assistant bar manager, gig economy dromedary, and Real Tennis professional. As The Long Drawn Aisle took him over ten years to write (and rewrite, and rewrite), he has therefore had plenty of time to immerse himself in all of these glorious postings. And long – says the man in short trousers – may it continue!
About the book
In the tumultuous aftermath of the First World War the Wilson brothers head in opposite directions: Richard, interned in Austria throughout the conflict, returns to England; Edward, a junior officer, is dispatched from Italy to Vienna as part of the British Army s relief mission.
For Edward, it will be a return to the city and to love. But it will not be the same city: Vienna is no longer the administrative heart of an Empire, merely a provincial capital ravaged by starvation, and paralysed by the winter snows. Will it be the same love?
In London, Richard is employed in the ministerial heart of government, and soon dazzled by the Under Secretary s vision for a new, federal Europe. But for the new to exist the old must be replaced; and the Habsburg Emperor, on his estate near the Czech border, revolution all around, refuses to go. One man is sent to make sure that he does.
With the brothers estranged by distance and time, their lives become unknowingly entwined in a shadowy plot and it seems the end of the war is only the beginning of their struggle.
As time goes by and the survivors pass away it’s only the history books and historical fiction that remind us of certain events, and I can imagine not many know that not everyone went home just because the war ended. This is the story of two brothers in the aftermath and chaos of World War 1. In countries where everyone is now really becoming aware of the devastation of war. There is more death, pain and sorrow to come.
Here’s the thing, Marshall has a very unique way of writing and telling a story. Have you ever had a friend who tells story, but has to tell ten smaller ones to finally get to the point of the first one. The path of this story is paved with a particular brand of dialogue and prose, which makes it all the more elusive and seem a wee bit ostentatious.
In the first chapters the style lends a hand to the authenticity of the situation. It makes the surroundings, the interactions and dialogue seem more vivid. Think of a real time movie taking place and you are thrust in the middle of the fracas, as everyone moves, talks and interacts around you at the same time. If you don’t catch the flow it can cause a sense of confusion.
Imagine if historical fiction met war fiction and mystery, and then had a Hemingwayesque lunch with a slice of Clockwork Orange vibe. Readers are going to think this is a marmite kind of read. You will either enjoy it or you won’t. I think it is the kind of read you have to digest, envisage and enjoy. It’s not a fast beach read, but rather a complex plot of love and loyalty mixed with the prose of a writer channelling the laissez-faire attitude of 1940s/50s artists and writers.