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Monday 6 February 2012

Escaping Entry by Benedict Martin

The title of this book intrigued me.  I wondered what on earth Entry was.  My answer, thankfully, was on the first page – a gently inviting introductory first page.

Entry is in fact a small, exceedingly quiet town whose inhabitants have fallen victims to a devastating plague.  Amongst the few survivors are: Veronica, a rather volatile innkeeper with a travel-errant husband; Billy, her 17-year-old, gangly, ginger-haired son; Eric, her sensible and equilibrium-restoring chef and Hailey, her pretty young waitress.  Billy leads an aimless, mundane life, under the rather dominant thumb of his mother, and has remarkable artistic talents.  His chance to ‘escape’ Entry comes in the form of Harold Fendeneez, whom Billy comes across in somewhat unusual circumstances.  Harold is indeed a very unusual man.  By coincidence, Harold needs a photographic assistant – Billy’s naiveté, artistic abilities and keenness to see life outside Entry are all the qualifications he needs to become Harold’s travelling companion on a quest to find unique photographic opportunities.

Off they go – an unlikely pair with a considerable age difference.  Extraordinarily considerable in fact……

Those photographic opportunities come in the form of an Omnivorous Bull and a cannibalistic Curator amongst others.  Harold puts himself into some outlandishly perilous situations, all in the name of a good photograph.  He is a very enigmatic character with an incredible ability to come out of dangerous situations seemingly unscathed.  Billy is awed by the world outside Entry, awed by Harold’s feats, annoyed by Harold’s inability to answer questions directly, annoyed by his eccentricity, enamoured by some of the places they travel to, and confused by Harold’s sometimes flippant, sometimes dogmatic attitude.  He goes on quite an adventure;  a wonderfully weird one.  Billy is a lovable 17-year-old seeking adventure and purpose, although he does miss the familiar drudge of home.  

This book is delightfully unusual and refreshing.  It is quirky, quaint, compelling and jolly good fun.  The characters are engaging, the dialogue consistently entertaining, always with a faint hint of humour (I am still trying to work out how a testicle can be petrified).    I was completely enthralled by the imagination of this author and this book is an Aladdin’s cave of creativity, inspiration and originality.

The ending was not my favourite……the dreaded ‘to be continued’.  However, my reaction was not my usual one of being rather irked.  I found myself thinking, thank goodness it is going to be continued.  I must have more of Billy and Harold.

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