April Skies: A heart wrenching Eastend story that will move you (John Sissons Book 2) Kindle Edition
|Length: 176 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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There are a lot of themes here to enjoy. The hard life of the common man and the meaning of loyalty are the two most prominent. (The latter includes not just family and friends but also one's favorite sporting club!) At its core, "April Skies" is a very sentimental story, but its hard milieu and characters won't ever let it become mushy.
Abide With Me is a special book by a special writer. That was released way back in 2012. It excited the hell out of me when I read it, so when I sat down with the sequel I was a little nervous.
April Skies continues the story of John Sissons. There’s a big jump in time from when he was last on the page and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge. The still waters, mind, are ever-present and they run about as deep as is possible within a human being.
John remains loyal in all the right places. His family and friends are his moons and he’s happiest when they’re orbiting close by. His dead father is still the brightest star in his sky.
John’s working the markets with his stepdad. Adapting to life out of jail. Keen to live a normal life, yet desperate to avoid being ground down by the routines and obligations he sees everywhere. Unfortunately, he’s haunted by ghosts from his colourful past. Those from his future become more threatening every day. As the story progresses and Ronnie Swordfish is killed in prison, the past and future bleed into each other until they’re duelling at screaming pitch. As John prepares for the inevitable backlash caused by Swordfish’s demise, the fabric of everything he holds dear begins to crumble. The foundations of his family, friends, budding romances, factory work and his beloved West Ham United all wobble as he slowly unravels. John’s need to hold it all together is what provides the tension and drama because we know he’s never going to be able to manage.
As the story comes together and John’s fears materialise, the tension is palpable. It’s real edge-of-the-seat stuff. I couldn’t bear it at times, yet equally couldn’t look away. The whole piece is utterly compelling and ultimately rather beautiful.
The cover says a lot about April Skies. It shows a factory billowing out smoke underneath a claret sky. It’s a sunset of sorts. Holds that point between the dark and the light in the way Ian Ayris does with his prose.
It’s told in the first person and this allows a real intimacy with a narrator who is open and frank about everything. You won’t read many better central characters and you won’t often feel this close to a protagonist, I reckon.
You really don’t need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this second. Ayris makes gentle references to Abide With Me all the way through. They speak for themselves and offer enough of background for the uninitiated to keep them straight. As for my nerves in relation to the sequel, I should have known better. I loved Abide With Me, but I think April Skies is even better.
A gently caveat. There’s a lot of swearing in this book. It adds a level authenticity and layers of character to the story. If you don’t like profanity, this one’s not for you. I only mention this because I hope this novel will gather the plaudits and loving reviews it deserves and I wouldn’t want those raves to be tarnished by folk who couldn’t see beyond the language to what really matters. To me it’s just part of the purity of the work.
Ex-con, John, is a young man struggling to emerge from a violent past that threatens to re-visit him and those he cares about. We see this world through his eyes, experience it through the beat of his heart, and the impact on all those connected is revealed with a sense of foreboding as the tension builds one notch at a time. Yet this story is about much more - Family, loyalty, hopes and dreams and the reality of a life that isn’t always bright and shiny. It’s about doing the best with what you have and never doing less.
I love the style of writing, punchy, sharp edges, no holds barred, real life warts and all – and yes, a fair dose of colourful language and violence. Nothing is wasted, everything is relevant and it works superbly. Most of all I loved the characters and the author’s breathtaking skill at bringing them to life. There are moments in this book, so poignant, the prose so poetic, it’s almost as if the author has turned his characters inside out so we may know them by the very stitches that weave their souls together. The result is both heart warming and heartbreaking in equal measure.
I cared about these people. I wanted to hug John Sissons, squeeze his hand, tell him everything would be okay, and applaud his loyalty and compassion for his pal Thommo, destined for a life in institutions, his mind destroyed by fear and glue. As John says when he sees the state of his friend ‘...none of that matters. Cos somewhere in there is my mate, sittin in a corner, doin the best he can.’
A wonderful book, that will have you thinking deeply long after you’ve turned the last page.
Most recent customer reviews
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April Skies carries on from Ayris's first book in the John Sissons series, Abide With Me.Read more