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Review: Letters to Strabo by David Smith

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

I recently reviewed David Smith’s Love in Lindfield and I’ve just finished his Letters to Strabo. Although the former was a fun read, the latter is definitely more my style and I really enjoyed the adventure.

As Finn’s mother dies, he promises that he’ll find out what really happened to his father, a man Finn has never really known. This takes him on an epic quest and he very kindly allows us to tag along.

Along the way, he’s inspired through a series of adventures by the landscapes and people he meets travelling round the Mediterranean, but especially by the Letters to Strabo, written by Eve, his long-distance pen pal whom he dreams, one day, will become his wife… Through these letters, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about how Eve is, in turn, struggling with an emotional trauma that she won’t fully reveal… This is both a love story and coming-of-age tale, painted on the canvas of the radiant literary, cultural and physical geography of the Mediterranean. It is funny and provocative as Finn recounts, with disarming honesty, the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy, but ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy. – Troubador

BEHIND EVERY GREAT LOVE IS AN EPIC STORY WAITING TO BE TOLD.

“One of the best coming of age novels in years” BookViral.
“Rich and intriguing with outstanding passages of lyrical prose.” S. Robinson

Intentionally, I believe, this novel reads like a travel guide, taking us to Greece, Persia, India, Egypt, North Africa and many more exciting destinations. We’re right beside Finn for his whole trip, sharing in his adventures, friendships and love affairs.

What makes this travel experience even more interesting is that it’s set in the late seventies and not the present day. Despite geography and history both being fascinating to me, neither are anywhere near to being my intellectual strengths and I felt as though I was casually learning throughout the book.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Mark Twain, echoing Finn’s journey with his own experiences. It does occasionally seem as though there’s too much going on in this book, from the search for information about the protagonist’s father, to his many love interests, the actual travel experiences themselves, and even some surprising action scenes.

I did enjoy the style of writing though, particularly when young Finn is behaving in a laddish way, playing the loveable fool and unwittingly getting into trouble. A surprising cameo role for Peggy Guggenheim also delighted me!

David Smith has also written Searching for Amber and Death in Leamington, as well as the aforementioned Love in Lindfield.

Love in Lindfield

‘‘There was supposedly one woman Charles Kempe tried to propose to. Unfortunately, the story goes she misunderstood his declaration of love, finishing his sentence for him with another meaning completely! He never had the nerve to try to ask her again. Sad, isn’t it?’ said Ellie.
‘I think I know the type though!’ Harry replied ironically.’ Love in Lindfield by David Smith

Love in Lindfield follows the likeable character of Harry, a TV researcher scouting for a suitable old house in rural Sussex. He’s a believable, relatable figure who unwittingly gets mixed up in some comparatively unlikely dramas. Luckily for us, Harry finds it all a bit unbelievable too, so he’s the perfect protagonist to hang on to for this ride.

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Although Love in Lindfield is a fairly straight forward love story, the book kept me pondering throughout. I couldn’t quite second-guess what each character was up to and I wasn’t always sure who was trustworthy.

The book is littered with interesting old found letters relating to the buildings, towns and their long-deceased inhabitants. It’s a fun read which made me giggle on occasion. It’s also a very quick and easy story, a real page-turner as they say! If I were the type to sun-bathe, this would be a perfect beach read, but I’m not… so I enjoyed it on my window seat overlooking the sea.

The ending of the book was a little sudden for me and it’s one of those stories where I think the final ten pages or so just aren’t necessary. Sometimes I like to be left to my own imagination to wrap things up. Without giving anything away, the tone of the ending was fairly bleak and blunt, quite a contrast to the spirited, fun adventures that we’re taken on earlier in the story.

Readers of Examining the Odd may be thinking that this book sounds a little out of place for this site, but I enjoyed the fact that it’s set in and around the area where I live (Brighton, England). I would recommend this book to anyone who has spent time in Sussex, or to anyone with an interest in Charles Eamer Kempe or Lewis Carroll, both of whom are quite prominent in the story.

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Love in Lindfield reminded me a little of a wonderful book I read years ago called Sex & Bowls & Rock & Roll, a story of a city man who moves to the country. I don’t always give ratings to books, but I give Love in Lindfield a solid 7 out of 10.

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