By George

By George

by Wesley Stace

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation minute. The book is By George by Wesley Stace.

I have to admit I got this book and put it on the shelf where it sat for a while until I worked up the nerve to read it. The fly leaf said it wasn’t scary but there was a ventriloquist dummy right there on the cover and I wasn’t taking any chances. After all, everyone knows a dummy is always evil, usually possessed, and occasionally murderous. Finally curiosity won out and I began to read. I owe an apology to little wooden boys and girls everywhere. This is a really good book.

There are actually two Georges in By George: the first is an English schoolboy trying to survive his family and boarding school in the 1970s; the other George is a dummy, or a boy as he makes sure you know he prefers, who tells us his life story during the early 20th century, the Golden Age of the English Music Hall, when he was built and became a star.  Of the two Georges, the boy — the wooden one &#151p has the more engaging voice, a sly, even slightly bitchy tone that made me want to spend more time with him. The flesh and blood George doesn’t have the benefit of being a character created especially for the stage and has to find his own voice; a challenge as he’s from a family of grandly theatrical women — imagine if all your female relatives were phone throwing divas — it’s no wonder he has to struggle to be heard.

As the two threads of the narrative slowly come together, family secrets are revealed, there are heros and there are villains — or maybe just cowards. Interesting, I read the whole thing thinking the wooden boy was the actual narrator although this is in no way a fantasy. It just worked that well.

Wes Stace, or John Wesley Harding as he is known in the music business forces us to ask some interesting questions about narrative — who is speaking? Who’s in charge of the act? Who can be trusted if the voice comes from someplace you can’t see?

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