Phil: Conventional theory says that a book needs a good, strong plot to succeed. Well, convention is wrong as Home to Roost by Tessa Hainsworth is the third book in a series and yet is completely devoid of any storyline at all. On the basis that her publishers aren’t doing this for fun, we have to assume that people are buying the books.
Instead of a plot, we have a year in the life of the author as she struggles to make a life for herself away from the rat-race in Cornwall. Along the way we meet various characters and enjoy a little window in to their lives. Some of the stories are funny, some very poignant. Reading the book takes the reader in to the heart of a rural community. Cornwall is a place that many would like to live but it’s not all beaches and ice cream and this becomes very obvious. If you can afford somewhere to live, and you’ll have to compete with Londoners buying second homes to do so, you’ll need to find a job in an area of high unemployment and low wages.
What’s fascinating about this book is it appears to be based on real life.
Tessa Hainsworth used to be the UK marketing director for Body Shop. After 20 years of work, she described her life, “I brought in an executive salary and Ben, an out-of-work actor, was doing a brilliant job as house-husband. The downside was that we lived in a faceless commuter suburb in a house that seemed less a home than a hotel, where I crashed out after incredibly long days at work. I went from one extreme to the other, either revved up from the stresses of the job or totally limp and exhausted. The previous Christmas, I had missed my children’s school play because I was working abroad.”
So after a Cornish holiday, she decided to quit the rat-race and move the entire family to the south-west. There she struggled to find a job, eventually ending up delivering the post, a far cry from her previous work. Along the way she managed to bag a book deal describing all of it in the two previous volumes.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure what everyone is getting from this. I read the book, it was pleasant enough, but like a mouthful of candyfloss, I didn’t feel there was very much substance. The earlier books probably had more jeopardy as the author struggled to settle in to her new life with the ever-present possibility of failure. This time she’s got it sorted and so the characters she meets have to provide the narrative. We have a couple who retire at a young age from London but don’t want to be part of the community. Older people who Tessa meets on her rounds fall in love, younger ones find jobs. Trees don’t get chopped down.
One thought did cross my mind. Are the characters real people? After all, the author is apparently describing her life but has she invented the other people? How would you feel if you read a book written by someone you knew and found yourself in the pages? As an author, would that inhibit your writing?
Home to Roost at Amazon