Gap Years by Dave Holwill: quirky and sharp


Nineteen-year-old year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.

Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.

The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.

Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.

Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.

Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.

My review

This is another sharply satirical novel from this author about false expectations and the sub-optimal lot of humankind. Sean expects all will be well when he leaves his mum to move in with his father, despite not seeing him for eight or so years. If one parent proves to be a pain, the other will be fine, surely. Dad Martin is more clued up as he’s apprehensive about the arrangement, and, as it turns out, rightly so.

Sean comes across as a very convincing, confused teenager, still idealistic and under the impression that the world owes him a favour. He gradually comes to learn, to his surprise, this isn’t the case. And things aren’t helped by a decidedly mixed-up femme fatale sticking her oar in.

Both father and son develop and grow in the novel. They learn a lot about themselves and each other, not all good, but they manage to deal with it. It’s thus actually quiet a moving novel, although that edge of dark comedy one associates with Dave Holwill is always there.

It’s very much a novel for modern times with a dysfunctional family at its heart, full of good intentions but also teetering on a cliff edge. The writing sweeps you along through the chaos and is immensely entertaining. A quirky, absorbing read.

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Author bio

Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.

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