Wednesday 11 September 2019
ISAAC CAMPION by Janni Howker. Reviewed by Ann Turnbull
"Now then, I was twelve, rising thirteen, when our Daniel got killed..."
This story, told in retrospect in the voice of a very old man remembering his youth, grabbed me from the start. Isaac is the youngest son of horse-dealer Sam Campion - a harsh, violent man whose life revolves around his feud with rival dealer Clem Lacy. Daniel is Campion's favoured eldest son. He's a confident lad who's afraid of nothing and can give as good as he gets. Isaac, by contrast, can do nothing right for his father.
These are feelings that any child could relate to, and the storytelling has an intimacy that draws the reader in. "I'd have given my heart to my father," Isaac says. "I was no different to any other lad. I wanted his good opinion more than anything else in the world."
When Daniel dies in an accident, Isaac's father blames the Laceys, using his grief to fuel his own hatred of his rival and plan revenge. Isaac is forced to leave school and take his brother's place. How he gains control of his destiny and finds a life and future of his own makes for a powerful story.
Janni Howker's writing is always a joy to read. Here, for instance, is Isaac watching the horses:
"...most of all I loved to see all those unbroken yearlings and mares my father brought back from Ireland, galloping together in a field, bunching together like a shoal of great fish. I loved them when they were like that - brown and black, roan and piebald, all different shades of colour, running together, with the big muscles in their shoulders and their tails flicked high... Oh, I'd the wrong idea of horses to be working in my father's stable yard. I wanted to see them galloping away over the hills. My father wanted them broken to his command at the end of a long rein."
This short book is such a pleasure to read that I want to quote all of it! But I'll restrain myself and just urge you to get hold of a copy and see for yourself.
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