Publication Date: May 6, 2014
In The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring by Alastair Puddick, George Thring is a man who feels trapped by life. Every day after work, he drives past his home and farther away. On the day that he gets lost, Thring finds himself at a festival of Elvis impersonators and becomes embroiled in adventure and mishaps the like of which he’d never previously imagined.
The author, Alastair Puddick, gave me a copy of thing novel in exchange for my review.
George Thring is a character, Peter Sellers would have been wonderfully suited to play. Puddick’s writing is a cross between P.G. Wodehouse and the British mod films of the 1960s.
George is a quiet and unassuming man. Puddick shows him reading e-mails he doesn’t want to read and answering e-mails he doesn’t want to answer. We wait with him while he searches for answers on the Internet to a crossword he’s doing. George Thring is us taken to another level and isn’t that what makes him interesting? He lives our dream leaving one day in search of adventure. Aiding interest in the character is Puddick’s easy conversational writing style. Like the aforementioned Wodehouse, Puddick’s tongue-in-cheek humor rises to a level of style excellence.
There are many brilliant moments in The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring by Alastair Puddick. The day he first sees Elvis could have come from a Carry-On movie and the way Puddick writes the scene perfectly conveys how much a fish out of water Thring is in his situation. Puddick’s environmental and character descriptions convey a clear photograph of a scene without the feeling that we have elaborately painted a picture brush stroke by brush stroke.
The Major is a wonderful secondary character who is, again, straight out of the 1960s British film and who could have been played by Sellers. He’s a “gentleman thief and conman” (page 76) and the introduction of his true character to the reader is indicative of the style throughout. Reviewing Major Charles Fairview’s background taking us to his school years, Puddick tells us:
He (the Major) was finally expelled for stealing exam papers and selling them to his classmates. Considering he could have sailed through the test without a great deal of effort, the headmaster was baffled by why he’d done it. When asked, Charlie had simply replied that it had made the most sense. (Page 79)
No classic British read would be complete without a romantic subplot. George, in the beginning, lacks finesse with the female of the species. When he encounters Alice he doesn’t automatically become a Lothario. The spirit of Elvis is not invoked. Instead, the evolution of the story progresses naturally and if that includes love for our laid-back hero, that is to be determined.
Puddick very clearly tells us who his characters are and why they do what they do and does it in such an entertaining way that The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring by Alastair Puddick is a novel that is simply delicious to read. It is a story that reminds me of why I fell in love with reading and the humor that has kept me such an avid reader all these years. That this is Puddick’s first novel is astonishing to this reader. It is wonderfully written and seamlessly edited so that readers closing the book won’t have the sense of having read a prelude to the main act. That this author once wrote an Agony Aunt column posing as Elvis’ ghost fits perfectly with the sly and yet wonderfully farcical humor of this piece.
The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring by Alastair Puddick was an unexpectedly delightful reading experience. If you like classic British humor, I strongly suggest picking up this book.
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