by John Simmons
It’s my stop on the “Leaves” blog tour! Thanks very much to Love Books Tours and author John Simmons who have kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Ophelia Street, 1970. A street like any other, a community that lives and breathes together as people struggle with their commitments and pursue their dreams. It is a world we recognise, a world where class and gender divide, where set roles are acknowledged. But what happens when individuals step outside those roles, when they secretly covet, express desire, pursue ambitions even harm and destroy? An observer in the midst of Ophelia Street watches, writes, imagines, remembers, charting the lives and loves of his neighbours over the course of four seasons. And we see the flimsily disguised underbelly of urban life revealed in all its challenging glory. As the leaves turn from vibrant green to vivid gold, so lives turn and change too, laying bare the truth of the community. Perhaps, ultimately, we all exist on Ophelia Street.
“Leaves” by John Simmons is an almost poetic look at the residents of Ophelia Street during the 1970s. In the style of a fictional memoir, this is essentially a report, or a ‘year in the life’, for the events that happened on this North London cul-de-sac.
“A cold January morning barely dawned. Fog spread thickly over London, stifling the daylight before it had a chance to assert itself. Only the lower branches of the bare trees, the first storeys of houses, the yellow glare of streetlamps, were visible as you stood beneath them. The fog hung heavy, unmoving, muffling the city’s waking sounds.”
Ophelia Street is mostly like any other. There’s certainly a mixed bunch of residents, there’s a pub, there’s a shop and there’s a whole lot of drama (and a murder) too.
Represented in the changing leaves on the cover, the book is divided into the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. Over each season, the story looks at a number of unique characters and studies them both individually and as a collective group of neighbours. Some of the relationships between these people are odd, some more traditional and others violent – this book is harrowing in parts.
Simmons writes from the perspective of Michael, a young man who’s taking notes of the events of the street. The style of writing makes you feel that you are really in Michael’s shoes, living on Ophelia Street and peeping out the window to observe the day to day lives of his neighbours. It seems that Simmons is writing from experience, and while he’s not personally the fictional reporter he writes about, I’m sure there are some elements of truth within these pages.
For the most part this is a well written story of every day life during this time period, but the author also helps us explore complex social and economic differences and the expectations we have of one another, so this is a thought provoking read at times too.
I have to say that my knowledge of what London was like during the 70s is a little lacking and I think a reader who has lived through that period may enjoy this book a little more than I did. While I didn’t love this book for me personally, I still enjoyed it and could really picture the events I was reading about which always makes for a good read.
Overall rating: “Leaves” is very well written story of humanity and community. Parts of the description in particular is beautiful, like reading a poem or song lyrics.
Don’t forget to check out the reviews of other blogs on the tour and if you like what you’ve read about it, support the author by picking up a copy on Kindle or Paperback through Amazon UK.