Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘The Naseby Horses’ by Dominic Brownlow, organised by Damppebbles Blog Tours. I hope that you will check out both the author and the book, as well as the rest of the blogs involved in the tour.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing in severity, but when he is told of the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance. Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth, and save his sister.
Under the oppressive Fenland skies and in the heat of a relentless June, Simon’s bond with Charlotte is fierce, all-consuming, and unbreakable; but can he find her? And does she even want to be found?
Drawing on philosophy, science, and the natural world, The Naseby Horses is a moving exploration of the bond between a brother and his sister; of love; and of the meaning of life itself.
This was a difficult book to review, primarily because it is one of those books that needs to be read to be understood. I loved The Naseby Horses and found myself completely hooked by the beautiful prose and almost dreamlike atmosphere that permeates the entire book. I also adored the interweaving of folklore, horror and mystery with a story about family.
This a slow-burn of a story, to the point where there are places where even though I loved the writing and what was happening, I found it too slow. Although, I would say that overall the pacing was well-suited to the story that was being told. It is a book that I feel is best consumed in one go because while it is slow-paced, it is complicated and taking too long a break would see you lose track of some of the threads. I did not find that a problem, as I did not want to put the book down and break out of the atmosphere, however for anyone looking for a faster pace especially in the mystery elements, this might not be the book for you.
Usually, I am a little wary of books narrated by an unreliable narrator, but this was fantastic. I’ve never read a book narrated by a person with Epilepsy, so not only was this a compelling aspect of the story, but it also made for an even more unique book. With Brownlow portraying the effects of Epilepsy not just on how Simon is perceived by those around him, especially in the wake of the opening of this book where he is being discharged from hospital having suffered a tonic-clonic (‘grand mal’) seizure, but how it affects his ability to narrate the story and perceive the world around him. He cleverly wove in auras, disrupted and dislocated memories and heightened sensitivity, and the management of these effects and aftereffects, into a mystery where his memory might have the answers to the whereabouts of his twin sister Charlotte who has disappeared.
While Simon is our main character and drives the narrative, I found that Charlotte – who we learn about through Simon’s relationship with her, and the flashbacks of their life in London and leading up to the memories disrupted by the seizure – felt more compelling as a character, perhaps because of the allure of the mystery of her disappearance. However, their relationship and Simon’s evident love for her displayed through memories and tender moments rather than being outright stated left me invested in both characters, and Simon’s character and narration were fascinating and unique and lent the entire book so much depth and complexity.
The setting of the fenlands was practically a character within itself, and I felt that the author truly captured the nature and atmosphere of the landscape through both his descriptions and the people that lived there. The contrast with London in the flashbacks added another layer to the world, and I found it made me appreciated the beauty of the East Anglian countryside much more. The theme of birds, both through the fenlands and Simon’s fascination with them was woven throughout the narrative as well, deepening the sense of the fenlands as a character as well as a setting. Especially, with Simon’s investigations into the local history and folklore – an element that had me incredibly excited for this book, as I have recently discovered a love for folklore-infused books, especially where there are elements of horror and mystery – which added yet another thread to the world and to the investigation. I would have liked to have seen this folklore, and the ancient curse take a slightly more central role, as there were times where the rest of the cast’s unwillingness to discuss this element was a little too frustrating, even as it made tied you further into Simon’s efforts and frustrations.
The Naseby Horses was a beautiful, immersive book filled with lyrical prose. It will not be for everyone – but what book is – and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who wants to lose themselves in a hauntingly beautiful narrative.
About the Author:
Dominic Brownlow lives near Peterborough with his two children. He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. He now enjoys life in the Fens and has an office that looks out over water. The Naseby Horses is his first novel. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.
The Naseby Horses – Dominic Brownlow (Published in paperback, hardcover and digital formats by Louise Walters Book on 24th August 2020) – **** (4/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it or read in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.