Review: Hemispheres by Stephen Baker
PUBLISHED: 12:38 18 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:06 20 February 2013
Set on the windswept North East coast against the ragged industrial landscape of the Tees estuary, it is the vivid and painful story of a son's reconnection with his long-absent father.
Hemispheres by Stephen Baker (Atlantic, 12.99).
Set on the windswept North East coast against the ragged industrial landscape of the Tees estuary, it is the vivid and painful story of a sons reconnection with his long-absent father.
This admirably ambitious first novel centres on Danny, who spends his youth surrounded by the angry, disaffected men of Thatchers Britain, and his father Yan, who went off to fight in the Falklands and forgot to come home.
His family suspect hes dead, but hes actually very much alive, half a world away on another rugged coast playing a drunken game of poker that sets him and a rag-tag band of deserters on a punishing journey.
Yan finally arrives home 20 years later, whip-thin, weathered and telling all who will listen that hes dying of cancer. Danny doesnt know whether to believe him, but finds it impossible to walk away.
Instead the two men try to find a way to make their complicated relationship work by utilising their shared passion for birds. And so, Yan begins to relate his story of migration in the language of birding with the constant whirl of gulls, guillemots, ravens, herons, nightjars and lapwings for company.
This is a brave jumping off point for an authors first flight into fiction, but it works, largely because of Bakers obvious passion for his native North East and its colourful population (both feathered and non-feathered).