Title: The Cuckoos of Batch Magna
Author: Peter Maughan
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: The Cluny Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: The Batch Magna Novels
Best Read in Order: yes
Purchase Now: Amazon US § Amazon UK
About the Book:
When Sir Humphrey Miles Pinkerton Strange, 8th baronet and squire of the village of Batch Magna in the Welsh Marches, the borderland where England and Wales meet, departs this world for the Upper House (as he had long vaguely thought of it, where God no doubt presides in ermine over a Heaven as reassuringly familiar as White’s or Boodle’s), what’s left of his decaying estate passes, through the ancient law of entailment, to distant relative Humph, an amiable, overweight short-order cook from the Bronx.
Sir Humphrey Franklin T Strange, 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna, as Humph now most remarkably finds himself to be, is persuaded by his Uncle Frank, a small time Wall Street broker with an eye on the big time, to make a killing by turning the sleepy backwater into a theme-park image of rural England – a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires.
But while the village pub and shop, with the lure of the dollar in their eyes, put out the Stars and Stripes in welcome, the tenants of the estate’s dilapidated houseboats are above any consideration of filthy lucre and stand their ground for tradition’s sake … and because they consider eviction notices not to be cricket.
Each disgruntled faction sees the other as the unwelcome cuckoo in the family nest.
So, led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook, and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, RN (ret) – a man with a glass eye for each day of the week, painted with scenes from famous British naval victories and landscapes that speak of England – the motley crew run up the Union Jack and battle ensign and prepare to engage.
It’s not often that I mention book covers – but I shall here. Because there are 3 very distinct covers that I found – and I prefer the village setting to them all: it just ‘feels’ more representative of the story to me.
This gently unfolding tale wends its way through the countryside of Batch Magna: curiously placed in the not quite Welsh, not quite English border. With the death of the squire, the village is tossed into turmoil, as everyone is concerned about what changes may come to disturb their quiet existence. Thus the stage is set to position factions: those who wish for progress, change and the increase economic potential, and those who have retreated or chosen the sleepy little space to quietly live their lives.
Most specifically a character driven piece, this is not full of action and quickly unfolding drama but more a quiet stroll down a country lane. Beautiful prose creates imagery that is easy to visualize, bringing the surroundings into clear focus as the characters slowly develop and gain substance as the story progresses. The conflict is one of the ages and common in many small villages and towns today: continue with the known, or progress forward to the unknown and very certainly different, the relationship of this different entirely dependent on your perspective.
This was an easy book to read, but required constant attention: characters are clearly presented, but in such a way as to be almost an aside to the perspective of the narration. Conversations are well presented and often quite funny, the author’s enjoyment of his own characters is apparent in their demeanour and presentation, with a touch of cynicism that doesn’t verge to overtly sarcastic or mean-spirited. Truly a delightful story: perfect for a quiet rainy afternoon spent by the fire with a cup of tea.
I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
I am an ex-actor, fringe theatre director and script writer, married and living in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales, and the backdrop to a series I’m writing, the Batch Magna novels, set in a village cut off from whatever the rest of the world gets up to beyond the hills of its valley.
The Cuckoos of Batch Magna was born out of nostalgia, of an idyllic time in the mid 1970s spent heedlessly, gloriously free living in a small colony of houseboats, a bohemian outpost in a village on the River Medway in deepest rural Kent. The summers of that time when life was moved outside – particularly in the long, torrid one of ’76, when it seemed summer was all there was, summer and youth and the river. Boating or swimming in it, or coming together for another jolly on one of the moorings, for weekend lunches that ended up in the evening, and the parties that saw in yet another summer dawn. And the winters when the lamps were lit and the smell of log fires in the air, snug around the stove below when there was rain on the deck, or the owls in the wood across the river calling in the frosty dark.