Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Gap Years by Dave Holwill. This coming of age story is also driven by emotionally complex and psychological aspects. It’s a contemporary read with an honest approach to a messy family dilemma.
About the Author
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.
About the book
19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter. The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
There is this presumption, which exists in society in general, that blood is thicker than water and creates an unbreakable bond between people. Not that it doesn’t happen and doesn’t exist, but it isn’t an automatic connection which always occurs upon birth or meeting someone. There are plenty of people who struggle to connect with blood relatives.
Martin finds himself in the same situation with his son Sean. The two of them have been separated or estranged, then again perhaps just kept apart by Sean’s mother, for many years. At this point it’s important to note that Martin didn’t try to uphold his part of the parenting deal. Sean has recently decided to move in with his father, and Martin is struggling to find any emotional connection or parental bond with him.
Martin doesn’t have the same issue with his younger daughter, but then she has spent her life with him, so why can’t he connect with Sean in the same way? Why is Martin more upset by the death of his dog than by the possibility of his son being injured or worse?
It’s a coming of age story, perhaps for both father and son. The son is thrown into a confusing hormone-infused period, which allows him to comprehend his own emotions and establish what he wants from life. On the other side of that is his father, who has to nourish the seedling of attachment, whist battling his own middle-aged crisis.
The two of them have a young woman in common, who flirts with one then plays with the emotions of the other. The question is whether she will drive them further apart or inadvertently bring them closer together.
This coming of age story is also driven by emotionally complex and psychological aspects. It’s a contemporary read with an honest approach to a messy family dilemma. The kind of dilemma that is a recipe for family tragedies and crimes.