Wednesday, June 26, 2013

{Book Spotlight} "Live Long & Prospero" by Scott Pixello

* Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of Reading Addiction Blog Tours. Although payment may have been received by Reading Addiction Blog Tours, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review. There was no obligation to write a positive publication. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Book Description:

This darkly comic YA novel, set on a lighthouse in 1983, introduces us to the deeplydysfunctional Captain Church and his crew of social misfits, whose well-ordered universe is turned upside down by the arrival of a marine biologist, who has come to study the local puffin colony. This in turn leads to an encounter with a nasty gang of drug dealers, a surprising undersea discovery and a hamster called Steve.



Church, the Lighthousekeeper, and Christine, the visiting biologist, have their first extended conversation while out on the lighting balcony. He has just been helping Jake, the youngest member of his crew, to read.

She picks up a pair of spectacles left by Jake and then frowning, holds them up to the light. “There’s no glass in these.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s a confidence thing. Makes him feel clever.”
She examines the book they were working on and tilts her head to read the spine. It is Lady Chatterley’s Lover. “You really think this is suitable?”
“It was always a popular choice at school.”
She picks up a second book. Crime and Punishment. “Are you a big Dostoevsky fan then?”
“Nah. Just read him for the gags really. What’ve you got?”
She holds up To The Lighthouse. “Thought it might be fun to read it on an actual lighthouse.”
“Mmm. Might take more than that. You ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s story ‘The Light-house’?” She shakes her head. “Nothing of any interest happens repeatedly until the story ends unfinished. The boredom of writing it finally killed him.”
She walks to the rail and takes a deep breath of sea air. “Don’t you ever get lonely here?”
He seems surprised by the question. “Can you hear that?”
She pauses for a second and listens intently. “What?”
“That’s the sound of my heart not breaking. No. I’m not really drawn by bright lights. Except this one. By the way, take care, it’s like looking at the sun or listening to Chris de Burgh- it’s best to avoid direct exposure. You notice the isolated location of lighthouses quite early on. Those ones based in cities or buried underground, are usually deemed unsuccessful.”
She gestures to a telescope set up on a tripod nearby. “May I?” He nods assent and she takes a look at the starry sky. “Ever think there’s intelligent life out there?”
“Out there? Probably. It’s down here that I’m not so sure about.”
“What’s that?” He follows the direction of her telescope, which has picked out a passing small boat. A figure waves and he waves back.
“Dave the lobster guy. You’ll never guess what he does for a living.” He looks at her intense blue eyes for a second as if reminded about what he’s been missing. “It’s not so bad here.  Every month or so, me and Alf even exchange whole sentences.” He picks up his rather battered Dostoevsky. “Books can be very useful sometimes. They feed the soul. People always fall back on them at times of emotional stress. You know, birth, death, living on a lighthouse, that kind of thing.”
She picks up a homemade kite, lying by the door. It is a flimsy construction, made of coat-hangers and a piece of material with a crude round face painted on it. Under the picture is a name, scribbled as if the masterwork has been signed by the artist. It looks like “De Burgh”. Church feels driven to explain. “Ah, what can I say? Boys with toys. Sometimes when it’s stormy, I come out here and do my Aretha Franklin impression. I’ve had a few direct lightning hits.”
“Mmm,” looking at Church’s antics like someone forced to share a taxi with a mental patient who just says they’ve stopped taking their medication. “You surprise me.” She pauses. “Hang on, don’t you mean Benjamin Franklin?”
“Ah, you haven’t seen me dance.”
She remains unimpressed. “It’s a known fact that there some recessive gene in British men that makes them dance like a cross between a mad polar bear that’s been kept in an excessively small enclosure and the British no. 1 women’s tennis player, waiting to receive serve.”
“That’s a bit unfair.”
“On British tennis players?”
“On polar bears.”
She moves back to the rail and looking out at the horizon, takes a long, deep breath. “It feels like we’re the only people in the world.”
“I hope not.”
“Do you long for company then?”
He shakes his head. “No but if we were, there wouldn’t be anyone to signal to, would there?”
“Ah, I suppose not.”
She turns back and realizes he’s been watching her. “How long do you think you’ll stay here?”
“Well, Cal’s on the next shift, so I’ll wait. I sometimes even sleep up here in the summer.”
“No, I mean more long-term. On the lighthouse. Is this where you’ll be 5 years from now?”
“I’m not sure where I’ll be 5 minutes from now. My life’s just one long line of exciting possibilities. This evening for example, I might take a tour of the Taj Mahal, drop in on my old friend and golfing partner Henry Kissinger or...”
“Or I might just stay in and de-worm the cat.” He joins her at the rail looking out at the sea. Their faces are illuminated by the passing light. “So what really brings you here? You know, of all the lighthouses in all the world, you had to walk into mine.”
She looks across at the boat as it is gradually swallowed up in the gloom. “Well, I suppose I’d worked my socks off to get a PhD but still didn’t have a thing.”
“A thing?”
“Yeah, a thing. Something that would make people say, ‘Oh, there’s Chris Newman, you know, the discoverer of the...whatever.’”
“You want to discover something?”
“Nothing too grand. Just something to call my own. I looked at my life: the flat, the car, the job and I said to myself, ‘Is that it?’ So, I thought stuff it, I’ll go and do something different. There was an ad in a journal for a placement on a lighthouse and I thought, ‘OK, Why not?’”
He smiles. “Well, now you know.” He looks out across the skyline. “They’re looking for an excuse to automate all the lighthouses along the coast here. Efficiency is the name of the game. Lighthouses are like puffins: in mathematical terms, not that productive. But anyway,” he says, collecting his books together, “I can’t see that happening overnight.”
“That’s what they said about cars.”
“Yeah well we don’t see many of them round here either.”
“It’s just progress. Even Jake’s got his video player.”
“Mmm, I’m not sure that’s very convincing. He’s always sending off for some 9-day wonder. He insisted on paying out for a VHS machine. I tried to tell him, he’d be better with Betamax but he wouldn’t listen.”
“But who wants to live like this,” she points up at the lamp, “When machines can do the work?”
“Is that progress? If I were the Captain of a ship, I’d want to know that someone, a real person, was looking out for me. Wouldn’t you?”
“I s’pose. How did Jake end up here?”
“Things wash up here. He came here on a two-week work experience placement. That was two years ago. I’m not sure he’s passed yet.” He turns back from the rail. “Anyway, we ought to head in, you know. I can offer you the final tea-bag.”
“I’m honoured. Would this be an example of some of the famous Captain’s hospitality I’ve heard so much about?”
“Could be. If you play your cards right.” He gives the sky one last look before collecting his things together. “If you want, pop into my room. I’ve got something that might interest you.”
“Really? I was going to read while here.”
“You’re more than welcome but it’s likely to rain and beside,” he says, looking at her choice of book, “You’ll only depress yourself. Anyway, there’s supposed to be a storm coming in the next 24 hours.”
“Is that from the radar?”
He shakes his head and points at the sky to their right. “Big, black clouds.”

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