Small Hours; meditative and emotional magical realism

Regular followers of my blog will know that I am a massive fan of Bobby Palmer’s debut novel Isaac and the Egg. In fact, over the last 18 months or so when I’ve been asked for book recommendations, Isaac and the Egg has been the first book that has crossed my lips. So you can imagine my excitement when I was approached to read and review Bobby’s second novel Small Hours, which was released earlier this month.

Both novels showcase the power of Bobby Palmer’s emotional intelligence as he skilfully and sensitively confronts difficult human issues. Just like Isaac and the Egg, the narrative of Small Hours is full of a raw, yet also beautiful poignancy. This may sound weird, but as well as finding Small Hours thought-provoking, it also had a soothing, meditative impact on me.

Told mainly from the point of view of Jack, the son and Gerry, the father, Small Hours is a beautiful yet heart wrenching story of family. Jack, now in his 30s and the embodiment of the rat race, has grown estranged from his family over the years, especially his father. When the world he has carefully built up suddenly falls apart, Jack is emotionally lost. But then he comes across an injured fox in the daylight and saves it from death. Yet in so many ways, the fox saves Jack too.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it is the fox that is the true hero of this mesmerising novel. It is also the fox that made me cry.

Receiving a call from his younger sister to inform him his mother is missing, Jack reluctantly returns to the family home in the country. Relations are strained, especially as Jack refuses to see or acknowledge the memory problems his father Gerry is experiencing. Although no specific condition is ever referred to throughout the narrative, it is clear that Gerry is experiencing significant memory loss as he ages. So much so that he doesn’t know Jack, ‘this angry man back under his roof.’

Over the years the gulf between the nature loving father who would rather communicate with animals, and the son who has never felt good enough, has grown and grown. Can this be fixed before it is too late?

Bobby Palmer used a playful magical realism in Isaac and the Egg to explore raw issues; and again in Small Hours, through the brilliant use of the fox, he emotionally uses magical realism again to explore mental health, dementia, love and loss. I absolutely adore the fox; it is so endearing, so wise and a true friend to both Jack and Gerry.

Thank you to Oliver Martin from Headline Publishing for inviting me to the blog tour of Small Hours. Thank you also for my advance gifted copies of this beautifully thought-provoking novel.

Small Hours was released on 14 March 2024.

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