Saturday, 29 June 2019

Upperdown by David Brennan


Upperdown by David Brennan
Published in the UK by Epoque Press on the 27th June 2019.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Blood, a 2019 New Release Challenge read and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


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.

I've loved previous Epoque Press publications including the incredible El Hacho by Luis Carrasco so I was keen to read their newest offering, Upperdown by David Brennan, a retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale. Retellings can be a bit hit and miss for me. However I didn't remember seeing a Pied Piper one before so was happy to try Upperdown.

The story is narrated in the first person by a maths professor. He speaks in a stylised 'olde worlde' way which took some getting used to but, once I did, I liked the effect especially in its contrast with the otherwise modern day setting. Upperdown itself is a large town beset with a terrible rat problem. The professor doesn't seem to mind the rats and, at times, almost seems to identify with them. He is a loner who spends much of his day simply walking around town observing its people or yearning for the attention of Beatrice Nolan, a younger woman with whom he is obsessed. I could have done with less of his agonising over this unrequited love! I did like the frequent inclusion of numbers in the narration. I didn't feel Brennan always gave enough focus to character development so this was a way to understand how the professor saw the world around him.

Upperdown diverges from the traditional fairytale into a delta of storylines which I felt had a good sense of atmosphere but, unfortunately, I didn't always understand what was going on. The professor's determination to crack the 'Riemann Hypothesis' (which is a real mathematical conundrum) was probably relevant but it makes no sense to me so I imagine I didn't pick up correctly on the frequent prime number references either. Having taken few dozen pages at the beginning to get into the style of the story, it was disappointing for me to then be bewildered by much of the ending. I'll be interested to read other reviews of Upperdown because the novel does have its good points, but maybe I just wasn't in the right place to fully engage with the story.

Etsy Find!
by Jessies Button Box in
Bristol, England

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Books by David Brennan / Retellings / Books from Ireland

1 comment:

  1. I've definitely felt like that before - that I have missed some important things as I've read. Frustrating, isn't it??

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