A Touch of Daniel, by Peter Tinniswood

Introduces us to Brandon Carter and his family, in a slightly surreal northern comic novel.

I know that David Nobbs always goes on about Tinniswood, rather in the same way as Jonathan Coe goes on about David Nobbs - a writer he respects, but feels is overlooked. And in this edition there's a forward by Nobbs (which I didn't read until after finishing the story) which is full of praise for the book, and Tinniswood's writing generally.

The book was a little less funny, and a little more surreal, than a Nobbs book, and not so sad. But the characters were very well drawn, and surprisingly sympathetic, given that one of the main which distinguishing aspects of the writing was the almost complete lack of description of anyone's inner thought processes. There was just one place in the book where one character is described as thinking something to himself (I can't remember where it was now but I did notice it at the time). This means that you have to get to know people by what they say and do, which takes a bit longer.

In this respect it's perhaps a bit more like a play - or tv script: you can imagine that it would be fairly easy to adapt; unlike something like Middlemarch, where so much of the power of the book comes from the descriptions of what people are thinking to themselves.

Even without knowing of the Nobbs connection, I'd have recognised this writing as being more similar to Nobbs' own work than anything else I've read. Characters have their own verbal tics, and there are sections which could come straight out of a Pratt or Perrin book, e.g.

Those who attended the tea party included Mrs. Partington and her daughter Pat, Mr. and Mrs. Brandon and their son Carter, Auntie Lil and her husband, Uncle Mort.

Those who did not attend included Uncle Stavely and his companion, Corporal Parkinson.

Food eaten included crab salad, bread and butter, peaches and tinned cream, Dundee cake and chocolate log.

Food not eaten included curried kipper and pickled sprats.

Topics discussed included the weather, Mrs. Partington's recent and first visit to the launderette, Auntie Lil's recollections of the launching of the Hoylake lifeboat, the increase in rates, the decline of radio as a popular form of home entertainment, and marmalade.
Topics not discussed included Pat's engagement to Carter Brandon.
This is like Nobbs in several ways:

Some of the chapter endings are straight out of a Nobbs book too, e.g.

The book was funny, and made me laugh, e.g.

"There you are," he said, detaching a letter from a bundle, and showing it to his son. It said:
I wait in vain for a reply to mine of 13th ult.
Yours affectionately,
Mrs. Otter (Celia) XXXXXXXX
P.S. I have found your shoehorn."

"Mm", said Carter Brandon.
"She's cunning though," said Mr. Brandon. "You see what she's doing?"
"She's trying to tempt me with me shoehorn. She bloody is. She's being right crafty. Knowing how attached I am to that shoehorn, she's using it as a bait to tempt me to write. Cunning old faggot."

I did very much enjoy the book, and have ordered Mog from the library (I think that's the sequel).

Completed : 15-May-2011

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