In July last year I spotted this book in Waterstones in Nottingham. The picture on the front reminded me of the Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset, but it has nothing to do with that at all. After flicking through it looked like a strange but original story about a pole vaulter so I added it to my wishlist on the July 2012 Roundup. A few days later the publisher, acorn book company, got in touch and asked if I wanted a complimentary copy to review. They kindly sent me this book and Chef of Distinction by the same author. With my gap in reading last year it took me a little while to get around to it but I did so eventually last October.
The book is a comedy story, following Harry, the pole vaulting genius and his friends (with their own vested interests in his ability) as they set about the task of getting Harry into the Olympics. Their adventures of securing the right pole, avoiding scams and sabotage, and eventually the Games themselves, are depicted and we are taken along every eccentric turn in the story with his pals.
Written with a whimsical humour that is warm and gentle, this is a likeable and clever book with a very English flavour. It is refreshing to read comedy without lewdness or swearing and still be funny by simply describing the colourful and strange characters that we pretty well all meet every day. The details are where the intelligence of the wit lies, making these bizarre people recognisable. I particularly liked the Announcer in the top box with a view at the games, with his 'fat packet of sandwiches... a thermos flask of lukewarm milky tea, and in his jacket pocket - a treat for later, a round, and slightly sickly chocolate biscuit, wrapped in red tin foil... This, then, was his domain.'
It was excellent timing to release such a book in 2011, the run up to London 2012, when all eyes were on the real games and its drama's. Harry Hop-Pole's games are also pretty exciting, forming most of the latter part of the book, and tapping into the comararderie that is instilled between spectators watching one of their own do well.
The style of the book reminded me a little of Terry Pratchett in a more gentle setting, and visually seemed to have much in common with the BBCs The Vicar of Dibley, English village life with a cheeky humour relying on misfit characters. The occasional illustrations also added to the feel of the book.
A pleasant and often funny read forming the first episode in The Wispy Gorman Stories, and his debut novel. Recommended for those who do not like brash comedy, but a more observational humour relevant to these modern times. It is also a short read and a good one for book groups.
To read about the other Wispy Gorman Stories from the publisher use the link.
The book has also made it onto GoodReads and you can read this review amongst others by using the link.