It’s funny, don’t you think? How certain fairy tales and fables that are told to young children are actually quite horrific. You can’t escape the dangers and gruesome reality of the world we inhabit. So whatever you do dear reader, resist the urge to gorge upon that delicious looking house, don’t answer the door to wolves and…what’s that I hear? A strange and alluring sound? Like a pipe? I should…maybe follow it. Be rude not to. It’s so beautiful and calming. I feel pulled, this is most unexpected. Wait here dear reader…I just need to follow…
Today on the blog I am reviewing Upperdown (Published 27/06/2019) By David Brennan. A big thank you to the publishers Epoque Press for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated. A wonderful publisher that I feel honoured to review for. Thank you!
About The Author
David currently resides between Ireland and Asia. He has been nominated for the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award 2019.
He was one of the winners of the Irish Novel Fair 2018. In 2016 he won the Frank O’Connor Mentorship Bursary Award and has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story award (2017), the Fish Memoire award (2018) and the Doolin Short Story award (2016). He was longlisted for the Colm Tobin Award (2017).
Things in the town of Upperdown are not as they seem. The Professor struggles with his devotion to proving the Riemann Hypothesis and he walks the streets seeking a solution whilst battling his own deeper preoccupations. The appearance of a stranger in town, the Piano Man, leads to the resolution of the long-term rat infestation but when the town’s children start to go missing it is clear something darker has been set in motion.
It was obvious from the moment I started reading, that this was a story that would seep slyly into my skin and refuse to vacate long after I finished reading. A tale that holds certain similarities to that of The Pied Piper Of Hamelin but with even darker, twisted consequences.
The narrative is hauntingly delectable and unlike anything I have read. Told in first person by the Professor, you are frequently presented with his inner demons and conflicting feelings about the strange man who comes to town, later named The Piano Man. A hint of an accent brings that extra rawness as the reader is fully immersed into the poetic trap of the main character’s voice.
“Yes, the man can play. He understands. He pursues the notes like he’s a hunter who loves his prey but will not hesitate when the time comes.”
I applaud Brennan for his exquisite detail of developing his characters. The professor, Joe Shultz, may appear to an outsider a normal man yet that is where the deception is most cunning. He is an optical illusion. The reader bares witness to the demise of Joe’s sanity, his grip on reality. He becomes more paranoid and suspicious which pulls him further and further into himself. He is an intelligent character that has perfect pitch and spends most of his time working on the Riemann hypothesis. Brennan builds upon the separation that he has from the townsfolk. It isolates him and encourages the unhinged mind that lurks within him to speak out. This is intensified when he hears of the closeness that the Piano Man and Beatrice Nolan share. Joe tortures himself with jealously and made to feel even more excluded when he overhears some of the townspeople meeting discretely. It’s intriguing stuff as the reader realises that Joe is not a reliable character. It makes you question and wonder if his narrative is honest or a delusion he has made up in his head. There are points where he begins to call himself a rat, a animal and misses the hairy little rodents. It’s fascinating writing that keeps you on edge at all times, never really knowing what to expect.
“Now that is a most unusual name, says he, I can’t recall ever encountering a similar name, and believe me you good sir I have frequented many towns on my endless journey. Upperdown sticks in the mind all right. Is there a rhyme or reason to it? Sound or shape? And what’s with all the rats? I’ve never seen so many. Is there something rotten buried in the core?”
Within the handful of characters Brennan introduces to the reader, there was one that I favoured the most and that was the town itself; Upperdown. The people live and eat by its bells while accepting the infestation of rats on its streets. This gives Upperdown a sinister ambience that piques my curiosity. The quality of detail that Brennan writes in is enthralling. The reader envisions the sights, sounds and smells of the town. A fine skill that Brennan displays naturally throughout.
Towards the end the atmosphere of Upperdown shifts from the recent disturbing events. The professor talks more and more inside his head and sways towards a darker side. It gives the reader a claustrophobic feeling, a sense that the walls are closing in on them. Brennann leaves you gasping for just enough air to survive, it’s invigorating reading.
“Winter comes in quick like the lick from a snakes tongue across the side of your frozen jaw. Trees stark-bare haunted against graying shades. The whole sky’s an open mouth like it’s screaming but you can’t hear a thing.”
I give Upperdown By David Brennan a Four out of Five paw rating.
A haunting tale that prickles the skin and lures you away from reality with its sweet music. Brennan is an exceptional writer that leaves you beautifully bewildered and yearning for more.
I can’t wait to see what the future hold for Brennan’s writing. Discover for yourself and witness a story that will give you goosebumps long after you’ve finished reading.
Pre-order a copy here. Enjoy!
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