The Accidental Recluse Blog Tour | Review

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Thanks so much to Ceris and Sandstone Press for letting me be a part of this blog tour!

Title: Sandstone Press
Author: Tom McCulloch
Published: 15th March 2018
Pages: 340
Genre: Fiction 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Johnny Jackson used to be a famous film director, but his brother Duke was a hero. Just turned 75, JJ is heading home from exile in Japan for one last blockbuster and a civic honouring. But home is where the ghosts of his past reside, some darker than his dead brother’s shadow. His sins may be about to come to light.


This is a very interesting novel, the blurb doesn’t give much of an idea of what this novel is about, or what is in store for the rest of the novel. Honestly even when this novel began I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, or what was in store for me!
This novel is a slow starter, it doesn’t get off to a flying action-packed start, but once you become accustomed to the author’s writing style, and the plot picks up a bit, it is a quick read.
McCulloch has a very particular and unique writing style. I have never read anything else by the author, but this novel has encouraged me to pick something else up. He is beautifully descriptive and lyrical in his visual descriptions of the Scottish landscape, and in particular of the Northern Lights.
It does take a little while to get used to his unique writing style, sometimes the writing is quite static, and very staccato to read, it seems to begin and end very abruptly. The novel definitely doesn’t flow as smoothly as some others, but I believe that this style actually adds to the story, and the stream of consciousness style novel we read. One criticism of the narration I have is that sometimes it isn’t clear who is speaking in a certain scene. Due to the jumpy nature of the writing style, and the lack of clear descriptions of who is speaking, I did find myself at moments not completely clear about who was saying what. Perhaps this says more about me, and my inability to read the novel correctly than it does about the author though!
The narrative jumps from the present day, where our main character JJ is an old man, to JJ’s past, from his childhood onwards. I liked this technique of skipping backwards and forwards through time, it allowed the reader to discover JJ’s past while also discovering his present, and this duality worked very nicely in the narrative. My only slight issue with the narrative jumps was that occasionally it wasn’t explicitly clear that the setting in time was changing, and so I would get part way through a passage before realising that the setting/time had changed. However, again this might be more a reflection on me than the novel in general.
The characters in this novel are fascinating. None of them are particularly likeable, and I actually really enjoyed this aspect of the novel. Although I didn’t particularly like JJ, I really liked reading about him. He was well developed by the author, and I appreciated learning more about him through the flashbacks which better informed my understanding of him and his actions in the present day. He was extremely flawed, but the flashbacks allowed the reader to see why he was this way, and I really began to emphasise with him by the end of the novel.
The novel is written from JJ’s point of view, we are inside his head, viewing things from his perspective, and we are allowed to hear his thoughts. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel, JJ is a different protagonist to a novel than I am used to, but I really liked this change.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, it was very exciting to begin something without knowing exactly what I was getting myself into! Although the novel is a slow start, it quickly picks up, and there are many twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.

Tom McCulloch has published poetry and short stories in various journals including Other Poetry, Northwords, Northwords Now, Eildon Tree, Markings, Buzzwords, and Wilderness magazine (New Zealand), and was long-listed for the Herald/Imagining Scotland short story competition 2011. With his first novel, The Stillman, he became an Amazon Rising Star.  

Tom is from the Highlands of Scotland, and currently lives in Oxford with his family.

Many thanks again to Sandstone Press!


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