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John Simmons’ Leaves is a very beautiful and considered novel. Lyrical at times, it focuses on North London’s Ophelia Street, a ‘no-through road, a huddle of houses, obscured from sight’ in 1970.

Over five parts, which follow the seasons and end with the new year, we see and experience the characters who inhabit the road through narrator Michael’s eyes. A young journalist, a ‘provincial newcomer’ to the city, Michael uses the street and the people who live in it as his feature subjects, a way to hone his observational and writing skills over the course of a year. He revisits Ophelia Street thirty years on, mimicking Simmons himself who originally wrote the novel when he was twenty-one, only to come back to it again more than forty years later to revise and publish it.

While a melancholia pervades the book, Leaves is neither depressing nor voyeuristic, but rather a layered look at ordinary people leading lives filtered with light in dark places. It’s a lovely read with lots of quiet moments and stirring imagery.

 

 

 

 

Leaves | John Simmons | Urbane Publications | £8.99 | paperback | 2015

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Acknowledgements: Quoted text © John Simmons 2015. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please visit the other reviewers on the tour. Many thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group Tours and to the publisher for supplying a review copy and jacket image. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

 

 

 

See also: What’s in a hill? Tom Cox’;  ‘My Judy Garland life’;By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Select Q&As/interviews: Amanda Saint‘;‘Ausma Zehanat Khan’; Mary Balogh‘; ‘Louise Voss’; ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ’Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist

 

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