Book Review – Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

The Random Intro…

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you know that I tweet a lots of quotes from books as I read them. In every tweet, I do my best not to give anything away. I aim to give everyone who hasn’t read the book some thoughtful quotes and a reason to maybe read the book. If any of you have already read the book, then I hope what I deliver provides a chance to reminisce as we go along. 

I take the same approach when I review a book. I try to capture the driving themes, the good and the bad, without giving the story away. Sometimes I don’t even really mentioning the story. I want to capture the essence of the book, not simply create a facsimile of the blurb that you can find anywhere (including on the back of the book!)

fiveriverscoverThe Review

Why did I tell you all that? Lovely though it is, I am meant to be reviewing Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris, not the justification of my approach to Tweeting. The all important link between the two is this; there were so many parts of Barney Norris’ book that I wanted to share. So many sublime sentences that captured a feeling or a mood or a situation perfectly. I restrained myself as much as possible, but you can see from the link below. There were still quite a few, and they are as good under review as when I first read them.

All my #FiveRivers tweets

It is pretty obvious that Barney can see life laid out in front of him. He is a young man, but he understands every age and every type of person. The perspective of others is such a powerful thing to be able to experience. I feel I can also see this way to a lesser extent than Barney. To be able stare out through the windows of someone else’s eyes, and feel what they feel; young or old, rich or poor, close or completely opposed to your experiences. It’s a powerful thing and Barney delivers it beautifully. He can also take the reader to emotional heights as well; love and death, happiness, despair and everything in between.

The book starts with an exquisitely wrought flyby of the history of Salisbury, it’s landscape and its cathedral. This is followed by Rita’s story which is a million literary  miles away from such a poetic beginning. These juxtapositions, the separation of each story, provide the structure for the whole book. The linkages and the multilayered connections between these different stories is the lifeblood of the book. Barney sows the threads throughout each of the distinct stories, but all the time the threads are being gathered, knitting together to make a complete and poignant story.

Barney uses strongly developed skills to deliver each character’s internal speech and his script style dialogue worked well providing direct, clean prose. It shines through that Barney comes from a script-writing background and the format of the book plays to these strengths. Barney sees the raw truth of people. The things they think between the things they say, and every character of the diverse set in the book is so different. You connect with each because they talk with an eloquent, intelligent, deep internal voice. For some characters this is conscious and others don’t fully understand the way they think. The book conveys so much truth of people.

On a related theme, there’s something I want to mention about ‘the magic of the real world’. As some readers will know, I grew up on a fantasy heavy reading list, and magic was one of the main draws for me. A well written supernatural scene, or a properly realistic, grounded piece of magic can make a book. Conversely, poor magic can kill an otherwise good book. I have read a few cross over books, Sixty One Nails by Mike Shevdon comes to mind,  where there is actual magic in an otherwise modern and realistic world. But Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain manages that exquisite other type of magic. The real magic of the every day. Emotion, intelligent interpretation of situations and a sprinkling of belief conjure (yes, that is a magic pun.) that same feeling, one that really is part of everyone’s experience of life, even if we don’t all accept it for what it is.

So to conclude, Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain is a set of wonderful stories that intertwine not so much because they need to, nor because they have been created, but because that’s the way life is, and that’s how rivers work. The book shows the tangled web of life’s visible connections and the ten fold numbers that you don’t… It shows people in all their individual glory and it shows how the world has changed in 50 years. Lives change, but so does agriculture and travel!

Agriculture and travel. It’s subtle, but you’ll have to read the book to find out. I recommend that you do.

Rating: 9/10





A picture of how a landscape and a people with together

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