BOOK REVIEW: RICHARD LUMSDEN – THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS

*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers you might want to avoid before reading*

In today’s post, I’m talking about Richard Lumsden’s debut novel, The Six Loves of Billy Binns. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, especially after seeing that gorgeous cover. But the plot interested me too. So, what is it all about? Here’s the blurb:

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time. As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of heartbreak and hope.

From his boyhood on the cobbled streets of West London to the trenches of the First World War, from a sweet-smelling bakery shop to the mysterious stone circles of the Derbyshire hills, Billy struggles to remember each and every person who made his heart skip a beat. But he knows there’s something missing and he wants to fill in the gaps.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is the story of an ordinary man’s life, and an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

Interested? This book is my sort of book. I love anything that talks about the theme of love. I just find it so interesting as a theme in literature but… I’m in two halves over this book, to be honest. On one hand, I loved it and thought it was a cosy read for this time of the year. I thought the writing was good and loved the character of Billy but I can’t help but think it’s just a bit too clunky and too long for what it should be…

As I’ve said, I love a book that explores the theme of love but this book didn’t deliver that for me. I thought there was just too much going on in one book with some parts that didn’t need to be there at all. There were glimpses of promise in some parts of the story and the relationships in Billy’s life but it all just… fizzled out a bit for me. I felt this was mostly down to Billy being the narrator of the story. I get what Lumsden was doing by using Billy as the narrator as we go back through his life but I think this was an obstacle in getting some characterisation out of some characters (even Billy himself) and would have been much better if we had a third-person narrative telling us the story of Billy and his relationships. Of course, Billy is the over one hundred years old so of course the narrative is going to be clunky at times but this didn’t sit right with me for most of the book. I just feel that the first-person narrative was a bit too much. I would have preferred to have a character find his letters and have his voice that way as that works and sets up the book brilliantly in the beginning and then had an outsider view of his life…

There were some great moments that I loved, especially with the scenes during the War. I think Lumsden wrote these scenes brilliantly and I loved the relationship between Billy and his peers. There was one moment that I was shocked by and thought it worked in favour of the first person narrative. I won’t spoil it but it’s a big emotional twist that shows how unreliable a narrator Billy is. I also enjoyed the moment between Billy and the schoolgirl who waved at him outside, that was a really touching scene. Billy Binns has lived a colourful and eventful life but I just felt it was too much for one book.

I really wanted to like this book and I did at the start but it just dragged through the middle and was a chore to finish. There were moments of promise but not enough for me, sadly. I hate to be negative on the blog but this is an honest review of a book and I’m not going to lie and said I loved it. Like I said, glimpses of promise and some great writing but clunky at most of the time and I would have preferred one: more characterisation as some of the characters were just bland and one-dimensional (especially the women – and I know that was Billy’s character but it just didn’t work for me) and two: a third-person narrative (with Billy’s voice through the letters) as I think the whole book in Billy’s voice dragged it down.

This book is out on the 24th January and published by Tinder Press. A big thank you to Tinder Press for my copy!

Have you read The Six Loves of Billy Binns?  What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

 

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