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Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain - Review

May 3, 2016

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain - Review

This debut novel from a young playwright brilliantly brings together the stories of five very different people in Salisbury, as two of them are involved in a road accident and three are witnesses to it. The title refers to the fact that, like the five stories the book encompasses, five different rivers meet around Salisbury. Each one narrates their own story, and contemplates their life and their future from a different perspective, reflecting on their joys, their lows and what they perceive as their mistakes. For some of them, the accident is a catalyst that compels them to consider what is really important in their life.

"This is a deeply philosophical and thought-provoking novel that mixes pathos and joy, and it sees the arrival of a new talent."

First, you have a Rita, a middle-aged florist who doubles as a drug dealer on the side. She has lived a life of petty crime and hedonism, but is now convinced that she’s going to prison. Her biggest regret is the way she brought up her son, who no longer sees her, but she is hopeful for a new start with him. Next you have Sam, a teenager who has fallen madly in love with a girl from his choir. At the same time as dealing with his desperate feelings for her, he also has to cope with the fact that his father is quietly dying, and his guilt that he hasn’t spent enough time with him. His is a poignant story, as he dearly loves his parents but neither he nor his father seem to have the words to express their buried feelings and talk openly about what is happening.

The third narrator is George, an elderly man who is mourning the death of his wife, as he looks back at their happy life together, but feels desolate about the future without her. Alison is the fourth narrator, and is an isolated army wife who feels an intense loneliness, with her husband away and her son, now very detached from her, at boarding school. Her only solace is her work with the local theatre, and the possibility of a new friendship. Finally, there is Liam, a character who appears fleetingly throughout the book. A young security guard, newly returned to the city after living in London, he contemplates the dead-end direction his life is taking, and wonders if he should move away again from the pull of Salisbury. 

All their stories are interconnected, and the atmosphere and history of Salisbury is brought to life. Unsurprisingly for a playwright, Barney Norris is adept at tuning into the voices of the different characters, and his prose has a poetic sensibility even when describing scenes of everyday, mundane existence. At the heart of the book is the strong sense of disconnection each character feels, and their inability to bridge the gap between themselves and the wider world, a feeling which strangely unites them, despite their differences.

The reality of death, and the taboos which surround it, are brought to the fore for each characters, heightened by the accident. This is a deeply philosophical and thought-provoking novel that mixes pathos and joy, and it sees the arrival of a new talent.

Written by Ruth, Marketing

  • Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris
    Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

    One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide - a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower - all facing their own personal disasters.

    View Book

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