The Adventures of Toby Wey by Gavin Scott

This is just the sort of story that I would want my boys to read: a tale about a boy, Toby Wey, who through no fault of his own, finds himself on hard times and alone, fighting to survive in a world where the wealthy prosper at the expense of others who they can exploit; but managing, despite the odds to do something productive and successful with the life he has been given.

However, it was a book that I, as an older reader, also enjoyed reading. Very much. Gavin Scott’s novel has great pace, moving from Toby’s simple country life through his encounters with various characters along the way, some who become his friends and some who would harm him if given the chance. But beyond the story is a learnedness about the period in which the book is set that makes it interesting historically speaking: I liked the asides that Scott throws in about what else is happening in the world at the time so that we are made aware of contemporaries; like, who was President in America, for instance.

The book is set in a dynamic period of history and one full of tensions, political and social, and having Toby chart his way through different scenarios which show this means that it is always entertaining and full of adventure. It is also chockablock with illustrations – I think from various sources – which augment the narrative and are reminiscent of Dickens’ editions I have come across, which is apt considering young Charles Dickens features throughout the story. This is also something that I liked – it could have felt contrived and a little clumsy, but such is Scott’s writing that this was never the case. The famous writer’s appearance felt natural to the narrative.

The book is split into two parts: the first is told in the third person and our all-seeing narrator tells us of Toby’s early days; the second part is Toby’s own papers, discovered serendipitously and so, we learn first hand about his more successful years, still fraught but with a more determined and assured outlook, the confidence of life experience serving him well. The switch is made obvious and the book does not suffer for this.

As a coming-of-age novel, it has all the hallmarks of a good one -a highly enjoyable and easy read for readers of all ages.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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