There are certain books that are made for hot, lazy days. And with temperatures soaring here in the UK, it seemed like a good time to share one I’ve recently been pouring over. When I was sent a copy of Sketcher a little while ago, I realised this was that sort of summer read and I couldn’t wait to take it away on holiday. When the weather heats up, I always find myself drawn to novels about adventure and escape. I blame growing up on Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome. I’ve always had a love for adventure stories!
Set in the sticky swamps of Louisiana, Sketcher is a coming of age adventure in a slightly more modern setting. There’s no jam sandwiches or picnics, but there is a heartwarming story about adolescent relationships and the aches and pains of family life and growing up. Following their move to the swamp through what appears at first as their father’s misguided wisdom that New Orleans would rapidly expand into the area following the oil boom, the story follows the ups and downs of the tightly knit Beaumont family in their little swamp shack. When I first picked the novel up (while on holiday as you can probably tell by the photo), I couldn’t help but think of Huckleberry Finn and that wholesome, Deep South style of storytelling that Mark Twain did so well. And with the use of dialect throughout the text, the language is colourful, bringing to life the characters’ Southern drawl. So it didn’t surprise me when I saw the observation from The Spectator that Sketcher is, “a witty Mark Twain-like diversion that tells of superstition and mojo-conjuring among the swamp folk of the Bayou during the Reaganite 1980s.”
Told through the eyes of nine year old Skid Beaumont, the narration is naturally a little unreliable due to Skid’s limited, inexperienced and immature viewpoint. However, this only serves to enamour the reader, throughout the journey we are taken on while Skid tries to ‘figure things out’. Sometimes, he made me laugh through his snippets of old soul wisdom, ‘Well, the first thing I should have learnt by the time I was fourteen is never tell a woman not to worry. See, they’re not tellin’ you their feelin’s so that you can bust open your shirt and show your costume and swoop down and save them. Naw, women don’t necessarily need you to reassure them or fix nothin’. They’re just workin’ things out for themselves – or, better yet, they prob’ly got it all figured out by the time they’re talkin’ to you. You’re just the sounding board for the solution they came up with.’
This is more than just your typical coming of age type of story though, because certain members of the Beaumont family seem to have a slightly quirky talent. Having convinced himself that his mother and younger brother have magic powers, as his family life becomes complicated and begins to unravel, Skid sets himself on a mission to harness their power to change all of their lives. A brilliant read for a lazy summer’s afternoon.