„The Headland“ was a truly enjoyable read, and I am not only saying that because its author, Neil Theasby, is known to (and highly appreciated by) me and some of my fellow bloggers as „Yorkshire Pudding“ (click here if you want to have a look at his blog).
The story is well plotted and well written, gripping, and with a few surprises thrown in so that you just want to read on and on while at the same time you don’t want the book to end.
14-year-old James and his best friend Corry are on holiday in a small town at the seaside with James’ relatives. The headland, jutting out into the Sea and topped by an ancient lighthouse, is a most prominent landmark and point of attraction for James, Corry and their cousin. They find a path leading not only to the headland’s bottom and an otherwise inaccessible beach, but to much more exciting discoveries. Those discoveries will influence their lives in more ways they could imagine, and as events unfold, the reader can’t wait to read on and find out what happens next.
I felt at home with the characters nearly instantly, although I have never been a 14-year-old boy myself. The way everybody acts and speaks is completely credible (except maybe for the fact that, for 14-year-olds, the boys seem to be drinking a lot of coffee – something I certainly didn’t do at that age; coffee was a drink I started with only when I began work at the library at 18 and it was a social thing to have coffee with the colleagues during breaks). When James is at school, the days are described in a manner that reminded me of the way I felt about school often enough; when he is with his family or his friends, he comes across as a perfectly normal boy – sometimes he gets on with them, sometimes they irritate him by their behaviour.
There were some bits I enjoyed even more than the rest, for instance the chapter about Bonfire Night. I almost felt as if I was there with James (or as James) myself. That the author is very observant is obvious to anyone who has been reading his blog for a while. This also shines through in the book; for instance, he remarks about the strange habit people have in seaside places: they just sit in their parked cars and look out at the sea. When my husband was still alive, we spent most of our holidays in Scarborough. I remember very well that I thought how strange it was to see so many people just sitting in their cars when for us, the experience of being near the Sea was only complete if you heard the sound of the seagulls and the waves and smelled the salty scent and felt the wind (and sometimes the sun) on your face.
Towards the end of the book, a supernatural element is introduced, but it only plays a significant role in one instant. Therefore, the story is not really one that could be classified as “Fantasy”; most of the time, it is more a mixture of James’ life between his home, school and the Headland, where what he and his friends find turns into something of a detective story, and how the subtle (and some less subtle) changes in their lives affect their relationships – or the other way round, the changes in their relationships affect their lives.
Had the book been twice as long, I wouldn’t have minded. If there was a sequel, I’d buy it for my kindle instantly!