|Book review: Meanwhile Gardens written by Charlie Caselton|
Local resident and writer Charlie Caselton, gets his book Meanwhile Gardens: An Urban Adventure reviewed by Georgia de Chamberet.
Misery memoirs; celebrity hot air; formulaic novels by writers who have been on a creative writing course: it’s time to move on. A neighbourhood novel and an adventure story in the mix, Meanwhile Gardens: An Urban Adventure, is a perfect piece of feel-good fiction for these recessionary times. You can tell that Charlie Caselton has written for TV and radio. The reader who picks up this funny, charming, and touching debut novel is in for a good surprise. Its colourful characters and pacey plot coupled with a wealth of detail and dialogue that flows had me hooked.
Lovelorn Ollie and his lovable, mischievous part-German shepherd, part-Briard, Humdinger the III (‘Hum’); fashion photographer Nicky; Jamaican seventy-something Auntie Gem, and fifty-something Emma, all live in Golborne Mews near Meanwhile Gardens, a bit of parkland in the shadow of the Trellik Tower. Ollie stumbles across pot-smoking, free spirit, Jake, whilst trying to control his unruly hound on the towpath of Grand Union Canal. Jake lives in a tree house in Kensal Green Cemetery. He is visited at odd hours by a chic young woman in turquoise blue pumps who turns out to be the editor of Glamourista magazine. Her industrialist husband sidesteps an ecological scandal and is knighted — although his tea lady, Auntie Gem, avenges the injustice of his actions by pulling off a media masterstroke.
Jake rescues Rion, a young runaway fleeing from a drunken abusive father and bullying sisters, and houses her in a hideaway off the canal near Sainsbury’s. Rion’s Pre-Raphaelite looks are pure eye candy and she is spotted by a sinister bunch of people with nasty intentions who live amongst the narrowboat community along the canal. The latter part of the novel enters the territory of cult classic, The Wicker Man, featuring Morris Dancing, ancient Celtic rites and human sacrifice. However, the easy-going charm, readability and Famous Five atmosphere of the narrative is retained to the end. And there are hilarious sideshows: the cowboy builder who seduces Ollie in order to snatch a Dutch Old Master for a scheming client; the group of gay men bitchily vying to win the coveted ‘Tragedy Queen of the Year’ title; Auntie Gem’s shrine to Diana ‘Queen of Hearts’…
Meanwhile Gardens is very Ladbroke Grove and is littered with references and jokes. Its cast of characters — some endearing some intensely irritating — do genuinely portray something of the neighbourhood. This novel is far more ‘real’ than that drearily bourgeois film, Notting Hill. If there is any justice, Meanwhile Gardens should sell like hotcakes and be the next big thing, proving all those commissioning editors totally wrong. Only Scott Pack saw its potential, but then he flogged his company to Harpercollins, so that was that.
I’ll leave you with a typical Golborne Road café scene:
It was 11.25 by the time Ollie got to Café Feliz.
First published in 3:AM Magazine.