Hopefully CM Taylor won’t take this the wrong way, but I thought the author of Staying On must be a woman.
Partly, this was because the family-orientated thrust of the story seemed a feminine rather than a masculine theme and partly too, because in the opening pages, the authorial voice seemed to be female rather than male – don’t ask me to analyse why, that’s just the way I read it.
But the clincher was that the exploration of the inner lives of the main protagonists was…well, it’s what women writers do.
So apologies, and a slap on the wrist for blindly swallowing stereotypes, because why shouldn’t a bloke write about relationships and the meaning of home?
And does it really matter that the C in CM is Craig?
What the blurb says:
Retired ex-pat Tony Metcalfe is going through a three-quarter-life crisis.
Viva España, his bar in a mountain village beyond Spain s Costa Blanca, is failing.
Tony started the bar for the English post-war babies who retired early on good pensions – the por favors, as the Spanish call them – flocking to the dream of wine, rest and sun around the pool.
But now their retirement paradise is shadowed by Brexit: the pound has fallen, pensions are frozen, and the property crash happened long ago.
Tony wants to move back to enjoy the remainder of his life in his childhood home, but his tenacious wife Laney wants to stay in the happy valley and forget about England and the dark, unresolved feelings it provokes in their marriage.
Sod it – he couldn’t go home even if he tried; nobody would buy an ailing bar during a recession.
But Tony s luck is about to change when his son Nick arrives for a surprise visit with his self-possessed wife, Jo, and their son.
With the extra help, Tony thinks things are on the up, but Jo has brought along more baggage than just their family s suitcases.
Staying On is a compelling story of little and greater family secrets come to light and what it means to find home, wherever you are.
Probably not – although I do wonder if I’d have read the book differently if I’d known?
Maybe? Maybe not?
One thing for sure, Staying On was a good read – the writing was tight and lively and kept my nose glued to the kindle screen. The characters were believable – disgruntled ex-pat Tony, in the throes of a three-quarter-life crisis, and his daughter-in-law Jo were both very sympathetic; their respective spouses, Laney and Nick, less so.
There was a very real sense of place too: Tony’s longing for home and his sense of isolation is tangible. Definitely not an advertisement for life in an ex-pat community.
But there’s also a secret eating away at Tony, Laney and Nick that means all three are definitely damaged goods. But tough cookie Jo knows something the others don’t and is determined to make her family heal itself.
Staying On isn’t a Christmas story in the conventional sense – but there’s a warmth at the heart of it that’ll melt the hardest heart.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.
About the author:
Writing as C M Taylor, Craig is the author of the cult Kev King novels described as ‘brilliant’ by The Sun, and ‘horribly entertaining’ by The Mirror. Both have been optioned for TV.
He’s been nominated for the British science fiction book of the year, and edits fiction for a well-known publisher.
Craig co-wrote the thriller, Writers Retreat, which was filmed in 2014 and premiered at the Sitges International Film Festival.
An Associate Lecturer at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing, Craig has taught widely, often on the underlying structures of narrative, and on Born Digital Literature, a particular enthusiasm that has seen him crowdfund a literary app, as well as instigate an experiment in digital literature with the British Library.
He lives in Oxford where he canoes, runs and hangs out with his kids.
Follow Craig on Twitter.