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May Book Review by Suzy Davies

 

The Dennis Bisskit Adventures By Stephen Ainley.

Book Review. Genre: YoungAdult/Adult Fiction/Memoir. Rating 3 Stars.

This comedy memoir depicts an accident-prone but endearing anti-hero, Dennis Bisskit, who, after a spell in the army, is transformed into a war hero. Now, he is a man worthy of respect.

The story has some interesting themes, not least the question of whether we are architects of our own destiny. The author suggests that the choices we make and the company we keep play a decisive part. A working class lad has limited choices. He must make the best of it. Although his family is close-knit and loving, the outside world is harsh. When the ginger-haired lad is very young, economics strongly influence what he does. He seems to be at the beck and call of anyone who will pay him. There is a pathos in his situation. In his small world, he becomes infamous! Naive and vulnerable, he is dogged by misfortune and mishaps.

Author Stephen Ainley has chosen some interesting scenes and settings to bring out his lead character and show forth the obstacles he faces and calamities in which he gets involved. We follow Dennis from the relative safety of home and the Scout Group through his job at the department store, with the unforgettable Mrs. Ricketts, and the Victoria Hotel, where we see growth, and the beginnings of wisdom. Dennis draws on his trip abroad in France with his granddad to help a very lonely ex- serviceman, Mr. Wellborn, who has fallen on hard times, and now lives in the hotel. Solace comes when the ex-soldier is reunited with a long lost relative, thanks to Dennis’ kindheartedness. Against the judgement of others, Dennis has intervened in other people’s business. This, of course, is a choice he has found the courage to make. This good outcome is a major turning point in Dennis’ rite of passage. Now, he is held in high regard by Mr. Wellborn. And when Dennis decides to quit his job, the hotel manager and his co-workers will miss him. Dennis and his best friend, Stinky, are to join the army. It is here that Dennis will meet his destiny. This time, does agency or chance bring about his fate?

In this book there are stories within the main story. Just as the story of his granddad’s personal history was exaggerated, so the heroic tale of our Dennis reaches epic proportions.The narrator of the story finally tells Stinky he is writing his autobiography because he recognizes he has a tale to tell. I think the author is suggesting that “small” ordinary lives are every bit as important and newsworthy as the lives of celebrities.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the situation comedy and the characterization. I also liked the fact that beneath the humor, the author asks philosophical questions about the nature of identity, showing that our lives are inexorably intertwined. His observations draw on immediate experience and the anecdotes are a kind of social history of yesteryear.

This book, suitable for Young Adults and Adults, is imaginative and entertaining. However, some of the writing needs rephrasing a little. I would like to see tighter editing. The punctuation needs attention.These aspects detracted from what was otherwise a good story. This book has the potential to be very good indeed. If the book is edited again, I will certainly revise my rating.

 

Copyright Suzy Davies, 2018.

 

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