(3 customer reviews)
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Categories: HistoricalISBN: 9781913208677
Jimmy Ford is too young to be a soldier, several years too damn young. But that’s only if you measure life by the number of years it has been lived in.
Jimmy is a dreamer, a charming boy, curious about the world outside his small town of Brentwood, Essex. With the intensity of the war surging and his bright, ubiquitous thirst for literature and adventure, Jimmy hatches a plan to make it to the Western Front. Little does he know; it is a day which will change his life forever.
1917. Jimmy Ford awakes to find himself confined to Warley Lunatic Asylum.
As he gets acquainted with the colourful characters at the asylum, Jimmy’s childlike perspective of mental health blossoms into a deeper understanding of human nature.
The novel explores the human compulsion to survive, how we bear loss and when in the face of adversity; overcoming fear and finding love is still what we strive for.
Flitting between the outdoor serenity of his childhood at the outbreak of World War I and the confines of the asylum walls, with his age and illness against him, will he ever find his purpose?
Luke Butler graduated with a degree in Film Studies & Animation from Roehampton University. He moved to Brentwood, Essex and lived in a converted chapel on the grounds of an old asylum, which is where the inspiration to write his debut novel came from. Almost the entirety of the novel is set in the area in or surrounding the old asylum. Luke now runs his own video production company based in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where he currently lives. He has a passion for story-telling and has nine years of experience across film, TV and video.
Luke says, “I have always been fascinated and somewhat romanticised by war and mental health. My wife studied psychology and worked in mental health for some time following graduation. Combining these two fields of interest is where the idea for the novel was born. This, and the grave of a shell-shocked soldier outside our front door, got me pondering of the futility of both.”
Maureen Cain (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
I loved this book. A must read.
Jimmy is a young boy growing up during the war dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot. He his mischievous and older than his tender years. True to his best friend and father.
A boy with a beautiful soul about him. You must read it to find out if he realises his dreams.
Have a hankie at hand. 😊. Well done to the author Luke Butler.
I recommend it.
Jackie Maltman Belast (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
Following the traumatic opening, I found Jimmy urging me, with a “c’mon” flick of his head, to join him in his adventure. Luke Butler’s language is simple and his narrative is simply beautiful. Contrasts play a major theme. The serenity of the youngster’s childhood is devastated by wholesale loss, whilst his naivety contrasts with intelligent sensitivity. The author writes with an affectionate and infectious knowledge of the setting, Essex through WW1. I found myself tracing Jimmy’s movements on a road map of GB. The locality grew to be comfortingly familiar, and as the text drew pictures in my head, they were complemented by the, just often enough, pencil sketches. Jimmy is a hero. The one singled out to listen, even when words are tough to hear. In the concluding pages, we witness the possibility of what might have been, to finally be confronted with the reality of his grief. The Birdman dreamed of sky wide horizons but now only within the confines of his mind. A gripping, touching read but parting from Jimmy was a sadness in itself.
SecretSpi (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
I’ve always been interested in the 1st World War (my grandpa was an observer in the RFC), as well as the history of psychiatry, so I was drawn to this novel with its intriguing title and appealing cover design.
The main theme is the loss of innocence, and the story focusses on a young boy, Jimmy, growing up in Brentwood during the 1st World War. Jimmy’s adventures outdoors with his chum Wilfred are reminiscent of Richard Jeffries’ “Bevis”.
But these sun-filled, gently nostalgic scenes, and the sweet blossoming romance between Jimmy and his childhood sweetheart, contrast poignantly with the interspersed chapters set three years later, when Jimmy is incarcerated in Warley Lunatic Asylum.
The writing is imaginative and has a charm and naivety perfectly fitting to Jimmy’s character – lost in a dream one minute, raring to go, live, experience and set out on adventures the next. There are humorous moments amongst the joy and tragedy, and well-drawn characters – I particularly liked George, Jimmy’s dad. A number of images recur throughout, such as that of drops – raindrops, teardrops and pear drops – which is very effective.
Reading this novel was like flicking through a stack of hand-tinted sepia postcards which come to life in the imagination. I’d also recommend looking out for the stunning book trailer, which I think can be found on Vimeo.