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Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain Unequivocal 5 stars Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is the debut novel of playwright Barney Norris These rivers meet in Salisbury, England, where the five characters of this novel live The beginning is beautifully lyrical I had no idea what I was in for, as I hadn t bothered to read the blurb.Five ordinary people are impacted by a car accident, either as observers or participants.One by one, we get to meet each of them through first person narrations.First, we meet Rita, middle aged, flower Unequivocal 5 stars Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is the debut novel of playwright Barney Norris These rivers meet in Salisbury, England, where the five characters of this novel live The beginning is beautifully lyrical I had no idea what I was in for, as I hadn t bothered to read the blurb.Five ordinary people are impacted by a car accident, either as observers or participants.One by one, we get to meet each of them through first person narrations.First, we meet Rita, middle aged, flower seller in the market and small time drug seller on the side Rita is a simple woman who s made some bad choices Now she finds herself alone and lonely and estranged from her only child She doesn t blame anyone for her failures Rita comes through very realistically, her narration was so well done I never judged her, I actually felt very sorry for her The next character we get to meet is Sam, a high school boy, who s a bit shy but somehow manages to find love Unfortunately, his kind and unassuming father is dying of lung cancer This personal tragedy throws Sam s world upside down Sam s anxieties and struggles to find his identity areor less universal Again, Norris did a fantastic job with this character as well.The old farmer George Street is driving his car coming from the hospital where his wife of many decades had succumbed to cancer I was deeply touched by farmer George s story, by his love for his wife His thoughts on love and marriage, children or better said lack of children, regrets and especially on memory made me shed a few tears One of the better realised characters was Alison She s the wife of an army man, so they ve moved around a lot Their only child goes to a boarding school, so Alison finds herself desperately lonely, depressed, without any friends and purpose She s hopelessly anxious and tries hard to pull herself together She s got a bit of an addiction to pills and the occasional drink to take the edge off A very familiar story Again, I was impressed with Norris s ability to create such a complex and layered female character I ve looked Norris up, he was in his late twenties when he wrote this, so, I can t help but be impressed The last character we meet is Liam, who s a security guard at at Old Sarum hill His story is the shortest but that s not to say it s not well done.As it s the case with many literary fiction novels, this is about the characters and their stories, not so much about the plot, although I loved how the characters and their stories interweaved The little details and coincidences are exquisite Even the title is beautiful and meaningful.Despite being a small novel, its themes are big the meaning of life, regrets, choice, purpose, belonging, love, loneliness, loss, and grief.Besides the beautiful writing and the terrific characterisations, the humanity and kindness that transpired made me appreciate this novel so much.Bravo, Barney Norris Looking forward to your next novel.Highly recommended I ve received this novel via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review Many thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this terrific novel. 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 This book has a nice concept at its core but unfortunately the self consciously literary tone and excessive amounts of exposition as opposed to dialogue or action killed it for me I had misgivings from the beginning The prologue is very florid, containing all kinds of confusing metaphors There were sentences in there which I had to read two or three times to try and work out what they meant, sometimes just giving it up as a bad job There was also some weird grandiosity in the mix eg, th This book has a nice concept at its core but unfortunately the self consciously literary tone and excessive amounts of exposition as opposed to dialogue or action killed it for me I had misgivings from the beginning The prologue is very florid, containing all kinds of confusing metaphors There were sentences in there which I had to read two or three times to try and work out what they meant, sometimes just giving it up as a bad job There was also some weird grandiosity in the mix eg, the unknown narrator claiming that the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is the purest picture of the human heart s he had ever seen Overall, I would describe the book as uneven It s split into five parts, each written from the perspective of different people in Salisbury, and some of these chapters are farengaging than others The ones I found most readable were Rita and the soldier s wife these were also the chapters in which the language was less flowery and the characters and plotmeaty In general, it felt like the author wanted to write with beautiful language but actually didn t have a great deal to say There was very little action throughout When action did occur view spoiler ie, when the actual car crash happened hide spoiler the writing was a bit garbled and it was unclear what was going on Because it was so uneven I m going to give a breakdown of my thoughts on each chapter no spoilers 1 Rita the flower seller I enjoyed this Rita had a strong voice very strong actually there s a lot of swearing and I cared about her 2 The teenage boy in love I found this chapter really dull There was an awful lot of him explaining his life in minute detail and little actually happened Also, there were parts in italics always beginningThere was once , which contained some real Carrie Bradshaw esque faux philosophy eg, The boy wondered what you flew too close to when there was no sun in the sky.3 The old farmer Again, this chapter didn t grab me The guy s wife had just died of cancer but his wife wasn t given much of a personality so I found it difficult to care that deeply He describes the time they first met but it s a real case of instalove, ie, no real indication of why he fell for her other than that she had auburn hair and was wearing a blue scarf.4 The soldier s wife This was by far and away the strongest chapter Written as a diary, the character s isolation and anxiety came across very well and it raises some interesting issues around mental health and loneliness 5 Liam the observer The denouement, when we see how the characters lives all fit together, was a bit of a disappointment The final chapter is a kind of stream of consciousness from the perspective of a young, self absorbed guy who moved to London after university, joined a digital agency and ended up with a semi serious girlfriend who dumped him He s having a quarter life crisis which I m sure some people might relate to but the ideas weren t properly aired The ending left me feeling cold Some people will really enjoy this book and like the way it s written Unfortunately it wasn t for meWith thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me an ARC in return for an honest review Barney Norris is a playwright in his twenties, so it s no surprise that there s something a little staged to his debut novel The lives of the book s five narrators collide one night when a car hits a moped in Salisbury town center We hear from each protagonist in turn as they reflect on their losses and wonder whether religion represented by Salisbury Cathedral and the scripture and rituals of Christianity might be able to help Rita is the liveliest and most engaging character in the nove Barney Norris is a playwright in his twenties, so it s no surprise that there s something a little staged to his debut novel The lives of the book s five narrators collide one night when a car hits a moped in Salisbury town center We hear from each protagonist in turn as they reflect on their losses and wonder whether religion represented by Salisbury Cathedral and the scripture and rituals of Christianity might be able to help Rita is the liveliest and most engaging character in the novel, difficult as her expletive strewn narrative might be to traverse Like David Nicholls, Norris prizes emotional connection and delivers a theatrical plot If he can avoid theclich d aspects of a novel like One Day, he could have a long career in fiction ahead of him.Full review in the final issue of Third Way magazine, April 2016 This is a spectacular book unusual, sad, poetic, and gorgeously written Five intersecting stories in five very different voices, all set in the shadow of Salisbury Cathedral and the context of a single incident reveal how closely we co exist how fragile our lives can often be and how beautiful the small human connections that we make on a daily basis can be, when revealed in just the right kind of light. Really excellent debut novel The book has a strong sense of place set in and around Salisbury, the cathedral, Old Sarum, Stonehenge and the wooded flood plain where five rivers meet The book starts with a pastoral, image filled description of this landscape and the song of the countryside and rivers and then follows five separate characters whose lives intersect around a single incident a car crash but we and they discover have a series of earlier connections Each character has a sect Really excellent debut novel The book has a strong sense of place set in and around Salisbury, the cathedral, Old Sarum, Stonehenge and the wooded flood plain where five rivers meet The book starts with a pastoral, image filled description of this landscape and the song of the countryside and rivers and then follows five separate characters whose lives intersect around a single incident a car crash but we and they discover have a series of earlier connections Each character has a section written in the first personRita a foul mouthed drug dealer and flower seller, whose addictions and lifestyle have alienated her from her ex husband andhurtingly her son and grandson.Sam a painfully self conscious, timid and untrendy 15 16 year old who starts his first relationship with a girl who sings in the same choir just as his father is dying of cancer.George whose happy albeit tinged with strong melancholy due to the lack of any children marriage ends when his wife dies.The wife of a soldier in Afghanistan, her life consumed by anxiety and a sense of worthlessness and the absence of her husband and also her son at Boarding school and growing increasingly distant her thoughts are set out in a diary.A security guard Liam who grew up locally but returned to the scene of his upbringing in an attempt to find a way in life after his girlfriend split with him and his divorced parents both remarriedLiam s section returns explicitly to the themes of the prologue and the intersection of rivers and Liam himself is faraware of the links of the five characters and muses on the similarity of their intersection lives to the intersection of the rivers.There are some flaws in the book the character of Sam is too precociously aware he writes at times looking back but is writing when he is 16 on how he felt when he is 15 , the diary method of recording the army wife s thoughts is clumsy, the intersections of lives while the whole theme of the book are reminiscent of early Kate Atkinson and at times are too frequent as well as too first hand at times the reader yearns for a weaker link and less coincidences However overall a really strong read the author remarkably captures and conveys the lives and characters of five normal people and the longing, regret and melancholy as well as the gentle happiness and grief at the heart of their lives each section leaves the reader both moved and feeling slightly bereft when it finishes at times this book is depressing but liked how he linked 5 separate people and how one event effects them all in different ways Five rivers ran together and the earth sang in celebration at the top of it s voice, a music hidden in the details of everyday, in footfalls of thousands of locals, ringing of cash registers and the great soaring dream of the spire, the ideas and dreams encased in the buildings is what makes them beautiful And so begins a novel in love with stories and dreams, thoughts, silences and words And Salisbury Here in this city is where Five rivers flow.to make a single voice of the A Five rivers ran together and the earth sang in celebration at the top of it s voice, a music hidden in the details of everyday, in footfalls of thousands of locals, ringing of cash registers and the great soaring dream of the spire, the ideas and dreams encased in the buildings is what makes them beautiful And so begins a novel in love with stories and dreams, thoughts, silences and words And Salisbury Here in this city is where Five rivers flow.to make a single voice of the Avon This is Norris s inspiration for his first book Five stories, from five very different people, whose voices weave into one another as their lives become intertwined through an horrific car accident The rivers and their free flow through an ancient city, gathering extra phrases and clauses along the way and pouring into the mouths of women and men is an exceptionally strong metaphor for how stories work too and a lot of this tale is a mediation on the written word and the art of story telling The opening, which picks up the reader and carries them along on the current, reminded me of Graham Swift s Waterland which also reflects on the similarities between rivers and people s lives Or perhaps some of Joanna Harris s novels which use nature as metaphors for love and life, and reality is often mixed in a lyrical song of magic and fairy tale My favourite story was A River Curling Like Smoke and focused on sixteen year old Sam For quiet and shy Sam, talking isn t natural at home and we ate guilt and silence for supper His section is about coming of age, anguish, first love and fitting in as people don t know they re weird if you don t tell them For Sam, stories are an escape into another world a chance to make sense of the world and a way to process life and emotions A story lay within him and he would not sleep until he spoke it Italics are used for the story telling sections which at first feel like fairy tales but then becomereal as Sam s emotional journey of self discovery continues For me, this was the most amazing section of the book and I could fill fiveposts quoting the stunningly mesmerising prose It is sad, moving and captivating The final story contemplates the role of the theatre Norris is an acclaimed playwright so his musings here are interesting and pertinent The fifth voice explains that theatre is a way of people telling stories to each other, sharing their lives and caring about each other Music is described as a ritual , a place where poems play themselves out and the brain has to switch off and listen in order to process or solve its concerns There is however a sense of sadness and emptiness in many of the segments a sense of needing to search for deeper meanings or fill the loneliness and emptiness many of us carry around with us People will listen to something mediocre that someone else invented just to fill the silence of their lives But, every bar in the score of ourselves is receding already into memory, into imagination.might as well listen I loved the statement we grow into our little neuroses.the little unhappiness at the heart of us In a sense it is a spiritual novel The cathedral features in all the stories, towering above them, rising to the sky it feels very symbolic and as if it holds some magical power over the city There is no religion in this novel but are the stories themselves some expression of faith As one voice admits, My life is so small and unenlightened.If I were in a story Stories are escapism, a fantasy, an alternative a place of hope and dreams Norris conjures images and poetic metaphors with immense skill, lyricism, power and beauty His writing is outstanding The five characters are all different all suffering, all flawed, all insightful, all immersed in their own journey and story This book is so multilayered I could write a dissertation on it and it truly shows the power and capability of our language when it is in the hands of a gifted writer Norris is clearly passionate about language, poetry and mesmerising power of storytelling My favourite line in the whole novel was The imaginary world It will always be a beautifully dangerous place to visit Surely this quote deserves to become as over quoted and referenced as some of the other famous lines in literature such as LP Hartley s the past is a foreign country and of course the thousands from Shakespeare I will be absolutely guilty of using it every time I come across a stunning story or want to entice someone into reading In The Bookseller Magazine 12 2 16 Norris explained that he wanted to draw a map of the Salisbury through people and evoke what is extraordinary about the ordinary, how the hidden currents of life draw together into something symphonic no matter how random they seem This is an outstanding debut of great literary accomplishment If you love words, stories, people and Salisbury read this Thank you so much to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review I thought this was an excellent book Barney Norris writes with clear eyed, unflinching insight into the human condition, but with real compassion and a redemptive note of hope which makes this something quite special.Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain is a sequence of five stories, each narrated in the first person by a variety of characters all of whom live in or near Salisbury It becomes clear eventually that their stories are related to a greater or lesser extent, but each is an individual t I thought this was an excellent book Barney Norris writes with clear eyed, unflinching insight into the human condition, but with real compassion and a redemptive note of hope which makes this something quite special.Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain is a sequence of five stories, each narrated in the first person by a variety of characters all of whom live in or near Salisbury It becomes clear eventually that their stories are related to a greater or lesser extent, but each is an individual tale It s hard to give an idea of plot because these are chiefly character studies and the point of the book is their individual stories and the light they shed on what it is to live and to love, and how we can sometimes end up somewhere wholly other, and sometimes as someone else entirely, from what we planned or expected There is the ex wild child florist and part time drug dealer, the adolescent falling in love for the first time just as his father becomes gravely ill, the old man whose wife dies after a contented life together, the desperately lonely, depressed army wife and the young man returning home to Salisbury after heartbreak in London It s a very disparate cast, which Norris paints with exceptional perception and skill so all of them seemed absolutely real and recognisable to me, and all of them had something important to say.Just as examples, Sam is fifteen and falling in love It s a very well worn theme, but I thought it exceptionally well done and incredibly poignant Norris brilliantly captures the mixture of excitement, delight and terror, and that sense that no one, especially such a wonder as the girl you admire so, could possibly be interested in you I was very moved by his story, and by the others.The voices were completely convincing to me, and Norris has a skilled dramatist s way of placing events and ideas whose significance becomes clear later on, so it s very well structured, too This book has an air of melancholy and loss, but also of hope and human fulfilment I found it very readable, utterly absorbing and rather profound in places I can recommend it very warmly Cannot recommend this book enough The author s nuanced touch and deft handling of emotion and history and the beating heart of this part of the country, is magical You won t regret this wonderful interweaving of five lives.


About the Author: Barney Norris

Is a well known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain book, this is one of the most wanted Barney Norris author readers around the world.


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