Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Book Review: The Vagabond King by James Conway

The Vagabond KingChris found out, courtesy of his unwitting rowing parents, that the man he thought was his father was not. After his mum dies the 16 year old is haunted by a being urging him to look deeper at himself. His adoptive father is a no - nonsense kind of man who doesn't have any time for finding oneself and Chris leaves home. He seeks out  acquaintance & middle-aged waitress Magda, envisioning her as both a lover and guide in life. The reality is that she lives with her immigrant Hungarian father, a man lost in the past, with nothing more in his life than beer and the Blues.

This is a story about young man finding his way in life, and also about how history repeats itself. Magda is well read and teaches Chris about various deities and the common threads running through many religions and belief systems. She is teasing yet seems to have an affection for the young man they take in. The Old Man shares his life story and Chris, initially repulsed by him, gradually begins to understand him. His stories about the events leading up to his flight from Hungary paint a picture of a survivor. I liked Chris, who battles between wanting the bright future his father sees for him and the need to discover who he really is, and his desire to travel to Europe.

I found this book an absorbing read, and while I can't quite put my finger on it there is something special about it. Perhaps it is the merger of beliefs and mythology with the gritty details of a life hard lived, played out with a background of soulful Blues. In places it felt a little repetitive, but that may have been an intentional echo of the call and response style of the Blues. The end caught me unawares and added another dimension to the story.

I really enjoyed this book and the feelings it evoked as I read. It also made me think as I read, no bad thing!

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

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