- File Size: 1607 KB
- Print Length: 129 pages
- Publication Date: November 20, 2011
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B006AXFPEM
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Not Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,165,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
ONE SWIFT SUMMER Kindle Edition
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The setting is in Kew Garden in London, a place overrun by the Swift, a sleek winged bird that makes the sky come alive with their antics and theatrical ballet from the time they arrive in May until they fly away to Africa in the fall. Leonardo, the main character, loves the Swift and uses the bird to relate to Emma, a war photographer, the joy of watching and exploring what the Swift shows about the thrill of the moment, the freedom of movement and the sweet experience of love.
Leonardo is a man who sees what others don't. A simple ice cream vendor with a love for drawing and a savant ability to know more about the people around him then they do about themselves. He speaks through himself, a man tortured, hurting from within at what his life was, trying to find some redemption and trying to help those he meets explore and open up their souls to what they are trying to hold hostage deep inside of themselves. Leonardo is a very alluring character, and, as rough as he is around the edges, I was driven to continue to read in order to pull back the multiple layers of the onion that is his personality.
The book is told entirely from his POV (with this exception - I liked how the author used the prologue and epilogue to allow the reader to see Leonardo through Emma's eyes and give a glimpse of who she is). There is no dialogue except when he talks with Mr. Parker, the Kew Garden tree keeper. Leonardo and Mr. Parker clash throughout the entire book, their exchange to me, almost a metaphor for the battle between good and evil within us all; that precipice called life that we teeter on, that at times, threatens to drag us over while at others we comfortably peer into the abyss knowing we are safe.
I like how Leonardo deals with Mr. Parker's cruelty with a comical sarcasm that not only drives Mr. Parker to try harder to unhinge him but also drives Leonardo to purposely aggravate the man at any opportunity.
His life saving Emma who, with the simple click of a camera changed a man forever was also changed herself. Each of them helping the other to discover something genuinely beautiful about their lives. As the end of the book drew to a close... as Leonardo faces and confronts demons both within and without he grows inside at an exponential rate. Emma also grows and discovers things about herself and her life as the story progresses but we only ever catch glimpses of her growth through the eyes of Leonardo.
I realized that the character of Leonardo portrays that desire or need that we have as human beings to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. That deep love that we all strive to give and get. Not the physicality of sexual love but the deep sweet taste of beautiful passion that doesn't require touch.
This book drove home how important many things in life are and although I do take the time to enjoy what's around me, to see the beauty in people and nature, I admit that my technological world catches me and keeps me hostage in my office writing when I should maybe take the time to not just look out my window and imagine what the day is like but to push myself away from my computer and experience it first hand. Reading this book also validated what I knew ... or perhaps never really knew or ... took to heart anyway; how a singular moment in time can change a person forever, how a step left or a step right determines the outcome and how we sometimes deny the change when we should instead be embracing and enjoying it. But I digress, every reader would decide for themselves how this book makes them feel.
It was a hard book to put away and leave for the next day. Although my time commitments prevented it, I could easily have spent a Saturday afternoon curled up on the couch, afghan keeping me cozy, glass of red wine in hand reading this book. I was so enthralled by Leonardo and what he had to say about life, love, hate, pain, remorse, etc that I didn't want to stop reading for fear of the emotion roller coaster ride ending. Even when I was brought to tears, which happened on more than one occasion, I didn't want to stop reading this creative poetic piece of writing.
The author neatly ties up the loose ends of the lives of all of the characters in this book and left me with a bittersweet sense that even though they may not have gotten what they wanted in the end, they got what was needed in order to move their lives along.
There are a few grammatical errors in this self-published book, but they were quite easy to cast aside and forget once Leonardo captured me and dragged me into his world. One thing that took a bit to sort out was the style of writing. Leonardo answers questions without the other character (Emma) asking them and at the beginning it was a bit confusing ... but once I understood the authors writing style, I comfortably eased into the flow of the story. One other thing I would like to mention is that some of the poetry was lost on me, but in saying that, poetry speaks and moves every person in their own way. Some I very much enjoyed but some.. not so much.
This is a wonderfully romantic poetic journey between two souls searching for the answer to one of those important question in life ... "Why am I?"
The author creates a world of intriguing characters and that world drew out a myriad of emotions in this reader. Through his characters he managed to open up this readers soul to, perhaps, what she is trying to hold hostage deep inside of herself.
All in all it was a beautiful story, very creative, very enjoyable and soulfully moving. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend you read it.
So pleased fate handed me Askew to tell me stories of the 'blue sky'...
An epoch between late night literary obsessions, R.J. Askew's Watching Swifts seemed to steal my life in real time, a perfect distraction.
Pulled by his 'creator's strings', R.J is an author handed a pass to lucidity, poetry pure and like our hero Leonardo, he seems to 'know more about you than you do?' - reading the reader, the sweetest manipulator. But not in a derogatory sense. How can you feel contempt for an author who leads you, who caresses, who shakes you up - true gift, strike that, reverse it.
The poetry between prose - for fear of reciting back the whole book - is breathtaking. Where other readers may find it distracting, these poetic interludes, randomly invading chapters is what I craved the most, soaring and insightful, eyes pricked waiting - rimmed from another place.
The evocative backdrop set in Kew Gardens conjured for me images of Voltaire's Dialogue Between Philosopher & Nature but I can be guilty of reading too much into things. It's grounds, nooks and crannies lends itself beautifully to expose the prose. It's ice cream, creperies, gift shops, tourists, Monkey Puzzles and swifts is simply a real and sensual background to draw on the characters of Emma Saywell, who has 'smelt the death, full mental survival instincts' of her lens' subjects as a war photographer, Luigi the Milanese wannabe lothario, lovers Billy and Isabelle, and my favourite of favourite's, the acerbic, venom spitting, verbal volleying Parker - their tongue duals a delicious voyeuristic encounter - en garde.
There are other catalysts, liaisons and interactions all leading Leonardo onwards. His life is a poem, attempting to understand his purpose, how he got to where he is, acquiring an acceptance of it and the big, silent unanswerables. Painting such a positive image of this tome is only possible because a darkness lurks, but that is the dichotomy and one cannot exist without the other.
Playful play on words, philosophical meanderings, this book never leaves it's centre. I smirked and giggled, I cried tears happy and sad, R.J. Askew tapped me on the shoulder and stimulated my 'minds eye green' and I'm in awe of his gift.
'I'm the air cut through me. Thrust, turn. Catch a breeze.'
And the swifts...'Just look at that sky! Blue, blue, blue-by-blue, airblue, untouchable, blue cubed, see-through-blue, swift-sky blue. Imagine being born to that!'
The book is a poetic tour de force. There is plenty of verse breaking up the narrative, but the prose itself is of a poetic bent. Excellent use of words and rhythm.
Most of those words issue from the mouth of one person, but they reveal plenty about his relationship with his listener, also with characters from his troubled past and his current life. We learn about the people he works with and their relationships, about others more tangential but who impact on his soul and his and interests. We learn about the birds he loves. We see into his heart and those of the people around him.
We wonder, or at least I do, where stuff like this comes from, to land in an author's mind. But we admire the product greatly and we look forward to Ron's next voyage into print.
Top international reviews
Reviewed by Lucy Pireel
This book is one of those that keeps popping back in your mind. Prose and verse, or verse written as prose entwined with verse.
I was drawn into the mind and world of the swift man. This author has the rare ability to capture his reader with a form of prose which keeps you wanting more. I had to know what happened with him, his antagonist (the female photographer he's talking to) and the swifts. Yes, the swifts, those lovely birds, the harbingers of summer and hope for better times. When things ended different from any `regular' novel would I was actually glad. I felt happy for the swift man, the swift, and the gardener, I felt sorry for the photographer who inadvertently lost her chance of life anew. Or had she?
The form this novel is written in allows for a play in the head of the reader. It is narration and little dialogue and yet, you can imagine the dialogue that is there nonetheless. A monologue and yet it is not, for he isn't there alone on stage, on the pages, the other characters are there too. Flesh and bone, you care for them, you loath and turn to feel sorry for them. Or even cheer them on.
The language this author uses has a rhyme and a rhythm to it which almost at times feels archaic, yet very now.
It is a book that touched me. It shows feelings, inner turmoil and resolution to be more than one thinks one can ever be. This book is isn't one to read swift, but to cherish and reread passages, sentences, for they seem to be unlocking emotions and thoughts on a level not many modern day novels do.
Definitions might vary, but for me“Het” is a quality that transcends time, and is the mark of a work that is truly inspired. It is a quality that leaves a person speechless, even the normally garrulous. I was not expecting to discover “Het” when I started reading One Swift Summer, because one finds it so infrequently. But this is a book that flies as high above its contemporaries as its eponymous swifts and if you don’t believe me, I suggest you start reading it.
I normally avoid literary fiction. I find it mostly self-indulgent and almost always pretentious. But there’s nothing self-indulgent or pretentious about One Swift Summer. Dat is Het, after all.
One reading of this book can never be enough, and I will revisit it one day, although preferably in paperback. Now for the difficult bit – describing One Swift Summer, something I find well nigh impossible. On one level this book is a paean to nature, and a corresponding attack on the unnaturalness of modern life. “Maybe we are even more what we watch than what we eat…” says the main character, who spends his days watching the swifts in Kew Gardens, that “sweetest of smiles on the face of London.”
But it’s also a story and a great story too, populated with a cast of characters so perfectly drawn that they spring off the page, like the businessman with his “titanium halo of success,” or the middle aged woman “performing her devotions on the altar of that little Dell of hers.”
It is my prediction that this book will stand the test of time, and go on to become a classic of British nature-literature, of poetic literature. The down side of all that will be all the uber-boring literary critics who will start writing uber-boring articles about it. But that will be a small price to pay to see this book take its rightful place in the canon.
As the swift summer progresses, the reader gets to know Leonardo pretty well. A tragic past is painted in broad strokes which are all the more haunting for their lack of precision. Most of the book is told through Leonardo's stream of consciousness speech, bookended by a prologue and epilogue from Emma. The language is rich, poetic and playful.
Playful is also a word that could describe the swifts themselves, who come alive through Leonardo's speech, flying for the sheer fun of it and mating on the wing. And author R.J. Askew has some occasional sly fun of his own, with comments such as Emma feeling "like a character in an allegorical novella." There are also occasional brief moments where Leonardo appears to become aware of the author trying to control his train of thought, and resists this.
Leonardo's account of himself is interspersed with fragments of poetry and encounters with the people who frequent this corner of Kew Gardens. The apparently throwaway conversations and observations of the park's inhabitants gradually come together in a little story that you don't quite notice until its final act.
As the swift summer comes to an end, Emma has found a new balance in her life, and Leonardo has found a space in the world for himself again.
A gentle but rewarding read for a summer's day.
This was my first read on my iPad and it proved a worthy initiation for that device. I found myself drawn into the narrative by the contrasts. This is the story of one man's life as it collides with a stranger in a public place and finds an unexpected outlet. Tom is anything but an ordinary guy; his confidant is a burnt out war photographer publishing a book of her pictures from war zones. Their initial contact flows from their visual appreciation of the world: she takes photographs; he draws. And he draws her as she sits at a table in Kew as he serves tourists with ice cream.
We learn, in broken passages, the story of his extraordinary life and we're presented with ideas of what it is to live outside normal society. There is much stream of consciousness, delivered in a gritty, realistic style but interspersed with the language of a modern day Shakespeare. The short pieces of poetry, spoken by the man for the woman's benefit, hint at a growing love; a love both deep and likely to be unfulfilled.
The swifts of the title are those magical birds that live on the wing, landing only to nest. And they are Tom's obsession. But the narrative uses them as metaphors, as carriers of deep emotion, as symbols of the soaring wants of ordinary people. They are also, tragically, potential victims of those without the soul to see their life song.
Emma introduces and ends the story; a romance, a tragedy, a biography, a parable. But it is Tom whose voice we hear most of the time. An enigma at the start, he develops into someone complex, honest, vital, real. And Parker, well, we all have to bear a Parker in our lives, unfortunately. Though this one has more depth than most.
This is literary fiction at its best. Accessible yet full of analogy, metaphor, symbol and subsurface meaning. Unusually for a contemporary example of the genre, there is an actual story and the people are as real as your brother, mother, girlfriend, dad.
There is death here; life, love, passion, hatred, violence, Nature at her best and worst, humour, compassion and perhaps a touch of madness. This is a story that lives on the page and delves under the reader's skin to tell its tale. I cannot think of a comparable work, but if you enjoy fiction that lives, characters who are real and have real problems to solve and real lives to lead, and superb, flowing, apposite language, then you'll love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and recommend it without reservation.
A simple story, in its way, the core is the growing relationship between two people. You wonder throughout if you are reading a love story, a drama or what, and then you realise that you don't care. You are simply reading one of the most wondeerful and beautiful books that you will ever read.
That is not an overstatement.
I have read a lot in my life, in all kind of fiction, but I don't think that any novel, poem or even news story has ever moved me to tears before at the sheer joy and beauty of life. It makes you feel... lifted.
My one complaint is that I had to read this through Kindle. I wanted to have a couple of copies to send to people as presents. To shout 'Hey. You have to read this' and give them a copy to make sure that they did.
While other books are a gem, Watching Swifts is a diamond in a platinum setting. And a damn big one too.
Read this book and you will see it's the best buy you'll make this or any year
Luckily I had the weekend free as once I got past the first few pages I couldn't stop reading. In fact I was to finish it the following day.
At first I was a little put off by the clipped sentences of one of the main characters, Emma (there are only a handful in total). I thought for a while that she was going be some hip, street-wise character, almost like some American cop. But within a few pages I'd got it.
The writing is very concise. Not clipped, just very clear.
Yes the characters are a little unbelievable, the main man knows far too much about everything to be bearable in real life, but this is written so well you are completely drawn into the small world they inhabit.
There are few writers who can put words together like this and take you somewhere else. It reminds me a little of the style of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', and that's one of my favourite books of all time (although I could not tell you much about it - it's more a feeling).
The story is based around a very small part of Kew Gardens, I'm not sure if it's a real location (I've only been there once) but that's the magic of this writer, you're not sure whether what you've read is real or not.
It's not all sweetness and light though; there's bad things done by people who should know better. I know it's going to be a book I will pick up and read again and again. When writing this review I was looking in the book for something and started reading it again.
I don't want to give any more of the story away but I can happily recommend this; just remember before starting that it might seriously damage your weekend schedule.
The book starts in Emma's POV, a war photographer and deals with a rather chance meeting with Leonardo, an ice cream vendor who is so much more than a seller of vanilla to the tourists in Kew Gardens. The majority of the book is a monologue as mentioned before and at first, I admit to some initial confusion. I couldn't seem to connect with Leo, could only recognize the talent of an author who managed to plot a story in this way and yet, keep me engaged. Once I made the connection, about 10% of the way in -so if you're like me, you must persevere-, I slowly fell in love with the tone, the cheekiness, the arguments with Mr. Parker, a rather mean park keeper, as well as the insights into a couple who are engaging in an illicit affair and Luigi, the peeping Tom who gets his kicks from sneaking peeks at the unsuspecting couple.
The way the author engages you, is actually very clever. You start to see the pettiness of life, the inanities that Leo comments on and through it all, the passing of nature in his love of swifts. Their migratory patterns will long outlast our petty and small existences.
There are snippets of poetry within the novella and very good they are too, but the story is much more than that. It's thought-provoking and unnerving. You sense Mr. Parker's agitation with Leo and the latter's need to bite back. The yearning in Isabel to be a part of an affair, to simple feel something; a city exec's troubled marriage and the dog who doesn't like his self-obsessed owner.
This is the kind of book that makes me glad self-publishing exists, because it's unusual and sometimes, the traditional publishers don't appreciate that. Especially with first time authors. It's a book that twists and turns and trundles along, describing life and the world that revolves around us in a unique way. And at the same time, it's tongue in cheek, humorous, honest and very, very real. It makes you want to stop, stand back and study people the way Leo does. Attain the same insights into human nature that he does. It reminds you of the fast pace of life and tells you that there is another way.
The synopsis doesn't give you a clue as to how the story will occur. I read it, expecting it to follow a certain pattern. Expected to read a romance novel, something which intrigued me simply because the author is a man and I've never actually read a romance by a man! But, that being said, it didn't follow that pattern at all and what I proceeded to read was a rather clever study of the human race in all its glory and all its pettiness. I read the opposite of a Happy Ever After in a way. A love that is perfect, but that will never be allowed to be blossom and then, ultimately, die. It will remain as a bud, forever frozen. Beautiful in its own way without the sureness of death.
Let me say that if you don't know what a swift is, then look it up. And by the end of it, expect to want to visit Kew Gardens. If you do, and if you happen to have this novella on your Kindle, then you'll have a corker of a day. This is no trite throw-away romance novel, but a serious character development of a man, who is at the centre of the story and whose own tale is cloaked within his observations. Expect to be shocked, amused, concerned and through it all, congratulate the author for taking you through the emotional wringer! Especially at the end, the prologue and epilogue are in Emma's POV and if your eyes don't feel slightly moist, then there's no hope for you!
What a lovely, thought provoking book. The prose is simply beautiful!
This book takes place over the summer, Emma who is a war photgrapher spends time with Leonardo (Tom) who sells ice cream in Kew garden.
I found myself instantly interested in Leo, his life story is really interesting and I loved him, despite his faults which are quite disguting but the style of writing doesn't make you linger on this, you can't help but like Leo as a character.
This book was written with precise sentences that instantly draws you into their world. I wouldn't usually read a book like this but I'm so glad I have. Leo's story will stay with me for a long time yet.
R.J Askew you have created such a lovely book and I think you should now take a *bow* :-)
For me the story wasn't just what was written but how it was written, the style of writing in this book is beautiful and very poetic. It portrays a lot more emotion through the style of writing than the writing itself does and without that emotion Leo would have been half the man that he appears to be.
As the story progresses you find out more and more, a little at a time, about Leo. You find out later on why the Park Keeper doesn't like him and the reason for this really got me thinking. By the end of the book I had a very strong sense of how judgemental we can be as people and also how wrong we can be.
This book is a must read! Do not be put off by any poetry references as this book is not a poem. I do not read poetry myself but I loved this story, it is fabulous.
The story tells of " one swift-flying summer ,with a perfect love fixed for time out of mind in primal nature's approving eye"
I make no apology for quoting the author's own words, I sadly do not possess his eloquence or skill and I so want you to have a taste of the wonder in his narrative.
This however is not some pretentious story that you will struggle to relate to, it is a simple study of the life of an ordinary man who finds himself for one glorious summer in the company of his beloved swifts while working in a kiosk in Kew gardens .There is humour ,love and tragedy in the plot, multi-dimensional characterisation bringing bad goodies and good baddies and last but not least some terrific poetry that made me sigh.
Watching Swifts is a beautifully written, nostalgic tale of a summer in Kew Gardens. The text is immersive from the beginning and the novella casts a spell over the reader as the writer weaves in the imagery of the swifts and the plants of Kew Gardens, with the philosophical musings of the narrator.
The novella is full of observant vignettes about the other occupants of the Garden: Parker, an infuriating jobsworth who wants the bins moved to the other side of the fence and the swifts removed from the park; The Professor - a lovelorn soul who sits every day in the cafe, scribbling away in the corner; and Billy the head ice-cream man who embarks on a passionate but doomed affair with the flighty Isabel. Leonardo is a narrator who sees the world, sees people for who they really are, and describes the characters around him with sensitivity and compassion.
This book stays with you after you put it down. If you want a philosophical, thoughtful read, this is a novella for you.
Once the swifts arrive we learn that Tom is a reformed criminal with a dark and tragic past. It was in prison that he was first drawn to the migratory swift, watching them perform their joyous aerial ballets in the summer sky, `those twists of speed' through his cell window, spellbound by their agility and eyesight. `If we could see like that for an afternoon, fly like that for one hour.'
To reveal more of the plot would be a shame as there is a surprise in store. But this is a little gem of a book, no more than a novella it is nonetheless a big book in every other sense and will, I promise, live on in your mind.
The writer has a very visual and alliterative writing style. Is RJ Askew the English Dylan Thomas? Anyway, really entertaining and better than chocolate.
I've just read Watching Swifts for the second time (27/5/13) - And it wont be the last. It touches several chords in me, has many imperfections - poetry which I can't understand, and which I suspect is not very good. But other parts speak to my soul.
The jarry bits are a foil to the priceless pearl of perfection, which cannot be grasped for long. That sharp pin-prick of sheer thrill. And all the while the beauty of the swifts fill the skies of London calling and crying. Then they leave, as does the Swift Man. But that's alright.
There is a circularity and a sadness in the story, romance, life, and death - and a moving on.
The hero of One Swift Summer, ex sex worker, ex murderer, ex jailbird, has redeemed himself and gradually redeems others, through selling them ice creams and through his art: `By drawing swifts, I draw our thoughts, which fly here in our inner sky, no less large, no less blue....'
In amongst his wisdom learned the hard way there is also humour, as when an American tourist asks for a `large' ice cream and is fascinated by the smallness of his helping, vows to tell everyone back home not about Kew's majestic rare trees but about the size of a `large' ice cream in these parts...
One Swift Summer teems with quotes you want to pin on your bathroom mirror. It is the answer to a life `stuck on the District Line, stuck on Sudoku.' Read it on the train, read it instead of Sudoku.
Reviewed by Katie Barron, author of Adventures in Tory Land: Conservatives around the M25