Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Coming of Age / Thriller
Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words
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Ian Ayris has had a love of writing since childhood and has had some forty short stories published. Recently first novel, Abide With Me, was released. Ian is currently studying for a degree in English Literature. He lives with his family in Essex in the UK.
Abide With Me is the story of the two fourteen year-old boys, Kenny and John, growing up together in the East End of London during the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s. One is very odd, the other very normal. Inexplicably drawn together their lives eventually take very different turns until fate brings them back together again.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews you’ll know I favour the genres of crime / thriller / noir (delete as applicable). So to pick up a coming of age novel is somewhat of a departure. However, I was so blown away by the quality of writing in Ayris’ A Day in the Life of Jason Dean I felt compelled to read this full-length novel. And I’m very glad I did.
Written in the first person from John’s perspective, Ayris immediately paints a strong view of working class London life in a small community with close friends and family – good and bad. John lives reasonably well, not poor, not rich. He’s full of life, loves his football and his school days. His neighbor, Kenny, couldn’t be more different. He comes from an abusive background and it shows. The kid is withdrawn, uncommunicative, and downright weird.
However, John finds himself drawn to protecting Kenny at school and as a result develops friends and enemies that remain in place through this teenage and eventually adult years.
Like A Day In The Life… Ayris pulls the emotional heartstrings very well, it is easy to immerse yourself in this powerful story of two very different children. The characters are highly compelling, the strongest part of Abide With Me. As a reader I really wanted to know what would happen to the pair, particularly when their paths diverged for a period (John ends up in prison and has a pretty brutal seven year stretch) and then ultimately cross paths again. Kenny eventually repays John’s faith in an incredibly emotional final scene.
The prose and dialogue are excellent, locally themed, but this adds to the story, rather than detracts. John’s voice is excellent, it varies throughout the story as he matures and then ends up in trouble. You can feel the character developing through his eyes. Very well done.
This is an excellent debut novel and readers that enjoy strong, compelling, and raw characterization would do well to pick it up.
Adult language throughout.
Rating: ***** Five Stars
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