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The Brandy of the Damned by JMR Higgs

The Brandy of the Damned by JMR HiggsThose of you who have visited this blog previously, may have noticed that I do like an occasional dose of the unusual or off-beat in my reading. I jump between styles and genres as the mood takes me, but every so often I just feel the need for something that makes the brow furrow, makes you flip back a page to see if you actually read that bit correctly. The Brandy of the Damned certainly fits the bill in that respect, because although it made easy reading it was also deliciously unconventional.

Read on for a full review…

-- The Brandy of the Damned by JMR Higgs a Review by Des Greene --

This is a fairly short novel, at about 210 pages, but the way it grabs you and keeps you reading makes it appear even shorter. I was at the end of it and scratching my head wondering if I should read it again before I knew it.

On the face of it, the story is about three ex-musicians who meet up once again, as middle-age stares them in the face, and who, with some trepidation, decide to set off in the band’s old tour van on a voyage of self discovery around the coast of Britain. Plenty of scope in that plot-line alone for most novels, but JMR Higgs adds further spice with a failed relationship between two of the band members, a mysteriously unfolding latter-day bible, delivered piecemeal in numerous messages in bottles, not to mention many other snatches of oddity and weirdness.

There are certainly a number of threads that seem to lead nowhere, and other themes that seem equally designed to play with your perception. Characters have crap ideas that later seem meaningful and profound, and profound ideas that turn out to be crap and meaningless. It is the sort of book that readers will take their own conclusions away from. I suppose to me, it seemed to question what was the point of it all – does anything of what we do matter, or carry any real meaning? It is a long way off from taking itself too seriously though; there is always at least a sniff of the absurd, and it never leaves you far from a smile. There are also some howlingly funny passages (assuming you share my sense of humour) – the character Russ’s writing diary, after he briefly reinvents himself as a writer, is an example not to be missed.

Ultimately, this novel will appeal to those readers who don’t thrive on a precisely delivered beginning/middle/end type of construction. It is as dissatisfying as it is satisfying – it leaves you wondering, and it is probably fair to say that it is the type of thing we would not get to read without small independent and self-publishers, as it certainly doesn’t appear to have the mass market appeal that a big publisher would require.

So if you like to venture off the well-beaten track in your reading once in a while, you might want to check The Brandy of the Damned out.


Already read The Brandy of the Damned? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!

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