Things Can Only Get Better by David M Barnett #Review

I am delighted to be taking part in the celebrations for David M Barnett's uplifting novel, Things Can Only Get Better which is published today. 

For elderly churchwarden Arthur Calderbank, there's no place like home. His home just so happens to be a graveyard.

He keeps himself to himself, gets on with his job, and visits his wife everyday for a chat. When one day he finds someone else has been to see his wife - and has left flowers on her grave - he is determined to solve the mystery of who and why. He receives unlikely help from a group of teenage girls as he searches for answers, and soon learns that there is more to life than being surrounded by death.

Set during the 90s, when we were all just common people believing things could only get better, this is an uplifting story about the power of a little kindness, friendship and community. 

For readers who enjoy Sue Townsend, Ruth Hogan and Joanna Cannon.

My Thoughts

This is a book to savour, a mixture of poignant moments and humour, of friendship and family, of loneliness and belonging.  Set in the 1990's, it captures the time, as a community shows its scars from the unemployment and social policies of the 80's which damaged many lives. For a book which is ultimately uplifting, there are some dark issues lurking below the surface. Most striking to me were the low expectations and stereotyping which were visited on the 'have nots' and which seemed to put people into boxes, almost like an invisible prison. The ugliness of racism and misplaced jingoism showed a cruel side which was destructive and hateful. Set against this were little moments of compassion and kindness.

    Arthur's story is a poignant and emotional one. You can't help but like him as he lives quietly on the edge of the cemetery, trying to hang on to the memories of his deceased wife. The young people who he befriends bring him back into the currency of everyday life. In their efforts to break out of the preordained existence which seemed to be their due, there is humour to be found in their attempts to form a band. Some of the aspects of the life in the 1990's is still with us- unemployment, asylum seekers, far right groups, mental health issues, bullying - so it is interesting to see these problems framed back in time.  

In short: A thoughtful look at the 1990's.

    

About the Author

David Barnett is an award-winning journalist and author based in West Yorkshire. He was born in Wigan, Lancashire, in 1970 and has worked in regional newspapers since 1989. He is the author of the Gideon Smith alternate history series from Tor Books, beginning in 2013 with Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. David is also the author of Hinterland (2005, reprinted 2008), Angelglass (2007) and The Janus House and Other Two-Faced Tales (2009), all published by Immanion Press, as well as popCULT!, published in 2011 from Pendragon Press. His work has been translated into Czech, Russian and German. He is represented by the literary agent John Jarrold. David is married to Claire, also an award-winning journalist, and they have two children, Charlie and Alice.  

You can follow David here: Twitter   |  Website 

Book link: Amazon UK 

  Thanks to David Barnett, and Alex Layt of Orion Books for a copy of the book and a place on the tour.

Check out the rest of the tour!

  

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