So since my blog got listed on ‘The Blogger List,’ a few weeks back and my review requests email inbox has gone utterly nuts. My phone has been buzzing with new emails filled with incredible books and equally incredible authors. It does mean that I’m going to have to get my head down to work through all of them one at a time but that’s what I’m here for right? Today’s review is of Jeff Russell’s The Dream Shelf. The cover of this book really caught my eye and found myself drawn to it as a reader and this was continued as I was pulled deeper and deeper into the plot. However, before I get ahead of myself, onto the review.
No pictures, no past, yet his dreams were left on the shelf: A book, a trolley car, a framed quote, and a plaster bust of Galileo, all represented the places his father wanted to see, things he wanted to do, but when Sam’s father died, it left a bitter taste of regret, and a lost opportunity to discover who he used to be. His father refused to discuss his background, and now that he was gone, Sam was left alone without a father and no memories of his past. But when Sam recollects his father’s belongings, he discovers a hidden yearbook, a list of names, and a government document.
Sam learns that the book on the shelf was actually about the Manhattan Project, the WWII program to develop the atomic bomb, and the trolley was from Brooklyn, a code name for a spin-off of the Manhattan Project aimed with plans against foiling Germany. Sam’s interest in his father’s life becomes a surreptitious tale that ignites a passion to know what happened to his father and why his secrets could not be shared. As he embarks on a quest for ‘his story’, one with the promise of closure, he finds himself in a threat of uncovering more than he wants to know when he meets an evasive retiree who offers bizarre clues that just don’t add up. As Sam continues the search, he encounters the dark secrets of the Dream Shelf, the high cost of integrity, and the lessons a father wanted to pass on to his son.
So quite a long blurb but brilliant at pulling the readers interest before they’ve even turned the first page which is a very skilled thing to do (my history with badly written blurbs is long standing.) As the blurb suggests, I won’t rewrite too much, the central story follows Sam Archer as he tries to uncover his father’s past. The story takes the reader on a tale of puzzling mystery as we slowly piece the story together, given clues haphazardly, pushing the reader into a frenzy with the suspense as the novel unravels itself. The plot is well paced and the continuous feeding of clues sustained my interest as a reader throughout. I wasn’t sure whether this book would take the genre of historical fiction and it doesn’t quite. The information is woven subtly into the plot not only to sustain the plot but also to help draw a number of parallels between Robert Archer and the Civil War Soldier Jeremiah Paxton. This is done with understated importance but the similarities between the two really sing.
In respect to this all the character are written with a sense of real likeability. Sometimes you read books and although you’re drawn in, the characters are so unlikeable that it lacks something. Here they take on body and warmth and it emits onto the reader making it all the more wonderful. I also though the relationships both between the fathers and their grown –up children was lovingly but carefully described and the romance was perfectly added to bring another contrast to the story. The writing style is really beautiful, it lilts along rather pleasingly and you feel like you’re being led by the hand down a winding path into the past. I also liked that the chapters didn’t feel too long or drawn out. Sometimes when I’m reading I think that authors are trying to draw out every last word but here it feels like the author wants to push it forward.
I think what really spoke to me as a reader was that I loved Sam’s quest to learn more about the man he thought he knew everything about. It made me think about my own family and what could have been hidden. It’s a thought provoking read and one that I as a reader thoroughly enjoyed. It really takes you on a winding journey of discovery dispersed with new relationships intermingling with the past.
Overall this book was definitely my cup of tea; I thought it was a sophisticated clever read that took me on a voyage. I think if you’re looking for something actioned packed and full of drama like some historical fiction seems to take the path of this may not be so much for you, but for me the stylish and thoughtful understanding of how to pen something that will stay in the readers mind for a long time after was rather wonderful.