My enormous thanks to Alainna at Orion for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations for Keeping Mum by James Gould-Bourn. Not only do I have my review of Keeping Mum to share today, but I am thrilled that James has agreed to ‘stay in’ with me to chat all about it.
Published by Trapeze yesterday, 11th June 2020, Keeping Mum is available for purchase through the links here.
Staying in with James Gould-Bourn
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag James and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thanks for inviting me! It’s nice to get out of the house after being locked up for so long!
It’s been quite a few weeks hasn’t it? Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along my debut novel, Keeping Mum. I wanted to bring this book because it came out yesterday and I’m incredibly proud of it.
I bet! Congratulations and a belated happy publication day. So what is Keeping Mum about?
It’s the story of a father and son learning to reconnect after an accident tears their family apart. It’s also about dancing panda bears. Yes, you heard that correctly.
Not quite the usual subject then James. What can we expect from an evening in with Keeping Mum?
I don’t think I could say anything better than what readers have said already, so I’ll leave it up to them to tell you what to expect from Keeping Mum:
“I was hooked from the first page. I loved this incredible story of a father and son trying to navigate their way through grief, and trying to navigate their way back to each other. It was a delight to read and left me thinking about it long after I put it down. I definitely think this is a must read of 2020.”
“I really loved Keeping Mum. The quality of the writing, the depth of theme and the brilliant characterisation all combine into a smashing book that touches the reader and leaves them feeling happy and satisfied. What could be better?”
“This is such a sweet, heartwarming tale – it is sentimental without being sappy, funny without being corny and touching without being mushy.”
I’ve been really overwhelmed by how positive the feedback has been so far. It makes me incredibly happy to know that people are having as much fun reading Keeping Mum as I had writing it.
It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you’ve had such positive feedback James. I loved Keeping Mum and am sharing my review after our chat.
What else have you brought along and why?
I’ve brought a homemade walnut cake, and anybody who reads the book will understand why. It’s my first attempt though so apologies in advance!
It looks pretty good to me! Pass me that slice.
I’ve also brought a little panda that my wife made for me. He’s a little scrappy and he doesn’t say much but he’s a mean dancer!
He’s absolutely lovely and perfect for Keeping Mum. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Keeping Mum James. Let me give blog readers all the details they need about the book:
Danny Malooley’s life is falling apart.
He’s a single parent with an eleven-year-old son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash fourteen months ago. He’s being pursued by a dodgy landlord for unpaid rent and, to make matters worse, he’s just lost his job on a building site. Struggling to find work, and desperate for money, Danny decides to do what anyone in his position would do.
He becomes a dancing panda.
After seeing street performers in his local park raking it in, he puts all sense of pride aside and spends his last fiver on a vomit-ridden costume… only to discover that the humiliation of his terrible rhythm is worth it. Not because he’s flush with cash (quite the opposite) but Will has finally spoken to him for the first time since his mother’s death. The problem is Will is unaware that the panda is in fact his father, and Danny doesn’t want to reveal his true identity in case Will stops talking to him. But Danny can’t keep up the ruse forever.
A surprising, laugh-out-loud and uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.
My Review of Keeping Mum
Danny and Will have a few problems!
What a lovely, lovely story Keeping Mum is. Before commenting on the narrative, I just need to say how apt the title is as Will elects not to speak after the death of Liz, his Mum, but as important is both Will and Danny’s desire to keep Liz’s memory alive. They need to keep Mum. Similarly, the cover has incredible poignancy once the book is read. I can’t say too much why as it would spoil the pleasure of the read, but that crumpled note book page is so fitting!
I hadn’t quite expected Keeping Mum to be as funny as it is. I rarely laugh aloud when I’m reading but James Gould-Bourn elicited several giggles along the way so that I felt uplifted and heartened as a result. There’s a fast pace with unlikely events that feel convincing and absolutely right for Danny’s life as it spirals out of control. With street performances, menacing landlords and sleazy dance clubs James Gould-Bourn takes the reader into places and situations they probably wouldn’t normally encounter and does so with verve and skill in a hugely entertaining manner.
I loved the cast of characters. Although she’s dead, it is Liz who is the catalyst for all the action and readers get a strong sense of who she is and why Danny and Will are as they are. There are those more minor people like the street performers, Mo, Reg and Mr Dent who provide a colourful backdrop, but it is Danny, Will, Krystal and Ivan who are just perfect creations. James Gould-Brown’s use of naturalistic dialogue, choice expletives, clear and vivid descriptions and the occasional touch of violence creates a visual and auditory journey that the reader takes alongside Danny in Keeping Mum.
However, although the characters are real and engaging, and the plot funny and entertaining, there is so much more to Keeping Mum than might be imagined and it is this added depth that made the book so appealing to me. The relationship between Danny and Will, their estrangement, their grief and their real underlying love for one another all combine into a touching and affecting read. With themes of bullying, self-worth, friendship, striving for the best and being true to yourself, Keeping Mum is a compelling and poignant tale as well as a diverting and amusing one. There’s a fabulous balance in the writing here too so that the narrative feels modern and yet timeless.
I really loved Keeping Mum. The quality of the writing, the depth of theme and the brilliant characterisation all combine into a smashing book that touches the reader and leaves them feeling happy and satisfied. What could be better?
About James Gould-Bourn
James Gould-Bourn was born and raised in Manchester. He is an award-winning screenwriter, and has previously worked for various landmine-clearance NGOs in Africa and the Middle East. Keeping Mum is his first novel.
You can follow James on Twitter @JPGouldBourn.
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