My enormous thanks to Ben Cameron at Cameron Publicity for sending me a copy of Homeward Bound by Richard Smith in return for an honest review. What better time to share a review of a book called Homeward Bound than on a day when many of us will wish we were doing exactly that – travelling home…
Homeward Bound is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.
George is a recently widowed seventy-nine-year-old. He nearly made it as a rock star in the 1960s and he’s not happy. Tara is his teenage granddaughter and she’s taken refuge from her bickering parents by living with George. Toby is George’s son-in-law and he wants George in a care home.
George has two secrets. 1) He’s never revealed why his music career stalled. And 2) No-one knows just how much the disappointment of opportunities missed still gnaw at him. He craves one last chance, even at his age. When it presents itself, through the appearance of a long-lost distant relative – whose chequered past should set alarm bells ringing – he can’t resist.
For Tara, living with her grandfather is a way to find her own path and develop her own musical ambitions. She isn’t prepared for the clash between different generations and living in a strange house full of her grandfather’s memories – and vinyl records.
They get off to a shaky start. George takes an instant dislike to the sounds from her bedroom that seem more suited to Guantanamo Bay than anything he would call musical. But as time plays out, they find there are more similarities – neither know how to operate a dishwasher – than differences, and parallels across the generations slowly bring them to recognise their shared strengths. But when Toby inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events, it leaves Tara with the same dilemma her grandfather faced five decades before with the same life-changing choice to make.
My Review of Homeward Bound
Tara and George are unlikely housemates.
In the interests of complete honesty, I have to admit my review of Homeward Bound might be coloured slightly by the fact that my much missed Dad was called George and could always be heard singing or whistling, so that I might be predisposed to view the narrative favourably, but I so enjoyed this story. Richard Smith writes with such passion about music without it ever feeling contrived so that George’s record collection and love of music not only drives the plot, but adds an extra dimension of interest – even to readers like me who are tone deaf! I found myself Googling some of the references as I read and can genuinely say that I have found new music through reading Homeward Bound.
The plot is smashing. The balance of sadness and happiness, ambition and diffidence is so well done. There are moments of incredible tension that had me worrying what might become of George and moments of fabulous humour too. For example, I laughed aloud at George’s first solo encounter with the Internet!
I loved meeting George. He epitomises the way modern society can try to side-line the elderly even though they have so much to offer. I found it sad that his marriage had served to curtail his creativity slightly but equally I felt uplifted by his rediscovery of his musical passion through Tara. George teachers the reader that as long as we have spirit and passion, we have life, even if physically we are no longer in peak condition. Richard Smith illustrates so effectively and frequently poignantly how the different generations actually have much in common if only they gave one another a chance. Indeed, the theme of family is incredibly realistic. There’s a caring and insightful exploration of family dynamics in Homeward Bound that makes it a very realistic as well as entertaining book.
Speaking of family, I loathed Toby. I think it says something for the quality of Richard Smith’s writing that I could cheerfully have climbed into the pages of Homeward Bound and beaten Toby senseless with a care home brochure! Tara, however, is a perfect accompaniment to George and I think one of the real successes of Homeward Bound is her increasing maturity, her sense of responsibility and her surprising personal values. Homeward Bound may be a book written by an ‘older’ author with an older protagonist in George, but it holds attraction for readers of all ages.
I’d say Homeward Bound is a surprising read. I expected it to be gentle but it is also incisive and thoroughly entertaining. I really enjoyed it.
About Richard Smith
Before embarking on his new writing career, Richard Smith was a producer of TV commercials, sponsored documentaries and educational and promotional films. It took him around the world and into places not normally accessible to visitors – up to the top of the Elizabeth Tower to see Big Ben strike twelve, on a speed boat around the Needles and North Sea oil platforms, and to the Niger Delta in Africa . . . to name but a few. Worryingly two of them were featured in a British Library annual exhibition, ‘Propoganda’! Richard lives in London.
Homeward Bound is Richard’s first book, at age 71. While the story is entirely fictional, George’s record collection really is Richard’s.