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Giveaway: Letters to Strabo

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

I recently reviewed David Smith’s excellent book, Letters to Strabo. David has very kindly agreed to give away a signed copy to three lucky Examining the Odd readers!

To enter, simply click here!

 

The competition will close on August 5th. I will then use the Rafflecopter random generator to choose three winners. Their details will be passed on to David and he will sign and send the books! 18+ only please.

Good luck!

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.

$_57

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.

David Smith – Guest Blog: Letters to Strabo – naming the characters

I will soon be reading and reviewing David Smith’s Letters to Strabo – in the meantime, here’s a guest post from the author.

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

Letters to Strabo by David Smith

PUBLISHED 28th November 2016

£8.99 / $10.52 (paperback)

£15.99 (hardback)

£4.99 / $6.43 (e-book)

Set in the late 1970s, Letters to Strabo is the fictional autobiography of Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life. His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes; Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo.

When Finn was young, his father Jerry went missing in a scuba diving accident in 1960’s Alexandria. After graduating from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, Finn sets out to fulfil a promise made to his mother at her death.


David Smith — Guest Blog

Letters to Strabo – naming the characters

Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

 

My fourth novel Letters to Strabo is both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s. It takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Mark Twain on his own tour around the Mediterranean a century earlier in: The Innocents Abroad. The novel is structured around the seventeen chapters of the ancient Greek Strabo’s great work: Geographica; a book that Twain quoted from extensively in his own tale. In Finn’s words:

“I researched how famous travel writers made their first journeys for a series of articles. It fascinated me how they all took something worthwhile out of that first experience on the road, whether they later became writers, journalists or even philosophers. It opened my eyes to all sorts of new possibilities I wanted that life. I wanted to get going, to write and make my fortune. Find out what had really happened to my pa and maybe find a bit more of that mythical free love I’d been missing, too.”

Finn’s full name is Adam Finnegan Black. The ‘Finnegan’ has dual meaning. It’s a nod to Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn) but also to James Joyce ‘Finnegan’s Wake.’ There’s a connection between these two as Joyce once joked that the end of Finnegan (i.e. the word fin in French) was such a good Twain joke that it deserved a good wake (the Irish celebration before a funeral).

I gave Finn the first name Adam, because I’d already chosen the name Eve for his pen-pal Eve, the beautiful archivist he meets at Olana in the Catskills at the beginning of the novel. Their love story is the thread throughout the book, described through her Letters to Strabo. Adam is also referred to by his friend Ahmet, a boy that Finn meets in Turkey when he shows him a photograph of Eve: “’A very beautiful woman and a very beautiful name,’ he said. ‘You know Adam means man in Turkish so it is fitting.’”

Finn’s surname Black reflects the fact that his father Jerry Black was a descendent of the US Attorney-General Jeremiah Black. Finn refers to his surname at the beginning of the novel “Well as for Black, I fear that all too well describes the recent temperament of my heart. But so be it.” Finn spends part of the novel searching to find out what happened to his father, a professional diver, when he drowned in Alexandra in 1962.

Actually giving names to characters can be a lot of fun, almost a god-like activity. One of the themes running through the novel is Homer’s Odyssey, another Mediterranean journey often referred to by Strabo in his great work. So Françoise Circe, the french girl he meets in Spain and then journeys with the Paris and Venice is a reference to the witch Circe that Odysseus meets on the island of Colchys. She invited them all to a grand feast, but one of the dishes was laced with a magical potion which changed his companions into pigs – a word Françoise quite often uses to describe men she doesn’t like: “’Come on Finn, allons nous,’ she said. ‘I don’t like that ignorant man. He’s swine. He’s likes a PIG.’”

Finn also later meets two Italians in Naples: Galatea and Martino, whose nickname is Polifemo. The latter’s subsequent death at the hands of Galatea, in Finn’s presence, is a reference to the killing of the one-eyed giant Polyphemus by Odysseus; Galatea being the “milk-white” object of the giant’s desire.

Finally the girl Nicky that Finn meets on Mykonos while he is lying asleep and naked on a lonely beach after washing his clothes: “I was woken from my siesta by a beach ball landing on my head, quickly followed by the sound of girls giggling. I realized my carefully positioned towel had fallen off my waist. I was completely naked.” She is named after Nausicaa the beautiful princess who almost steals Odysseus’s heart and leaves him a message: “Farewell stranger,’ he said. ‘Do not forget me when you’re safe at home again, for it is to me first that you owe a ransom for having saved your life.’”

 

 

Author’s bio

David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.

https://www.davidsmithauthor.blog

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