Have you ever wished to meet your favourite characters in person?
Imagine closing your eyes and having Achilles pop up in front of you in the flesh (okay, admittedly this would be a bad one as he would probably kill you out a of a sense of misplaced and impotent rage). Maybe Fitz from the Realm of the Elderlings would be a bit better company (you can introduce him to a therapist because wow, does he need one).
You could have a lot of fun with this power and that’s exactly what H. G. Parry does in her novel The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.
It centers on two brothers, Rob and Charley, who are different and similar in the ways only siblings can be. They bicker, fight, and love each other. Rob, the eldest, has put up with Charley’s unique gift and the consequences of said gift for all of his life, and as he tries to move on with his partner, Lydia, it’s starting to grate.
Charley on the other hand seems unable to help himself as he brings characters from classics like Sherlock Holmes and the works of Charles Dickens into reality on a regular basis. Usually for a chat, a literary analysis that most professors and grad students would only dream of, but when a particularly sordid character escapes Charley once again has to pull Rob into his topsy turvy would of literary delight.
And it is truly a delight. Parry wields her doctorate in English Literature like a knife, cutting through the fat of complex literary analysis and leaving the reader with the easily digestible, juicy center. The novel is littered with references to countless books and characters, it is essentially a distilled version of all high school English syllabus. And far more fun to read.
Parry revels in her detailed knowledge and interpretation of the characters that fill those tomes. Who could have imagined Dorian Gray as a reclusive computer genius? Not me, but it fits so well with the character created all those years ago. The five interpretations of Mr Darcy that share a house together in a hilarious send up of the differences abundant within literary analysis.
The story of the two brothers as they delve into their past, their family secrets, and the long held resentments simmering under the surface of their relationship moves forward at a cracking pace. Helped along by some interesting side characters that readers will be sure to recognise.
However, the novel can get bogged down in its attempts to justify and explain the magic that drives the plot. It’s in these moments where the spell breaks and you emerge from the novel like the characters within, wondering where the last few hours went and how you got here. But it’s not long before Parry’s pitch perfect prose and smart dialogue pull you back in and you’re once again sucked back down into the fantastic world she has created.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is a delightful novel for everyone, whether or not your have a background in English Lit.
In fact, reading it got me excited enough about Charles Dickens to buy my first novel of his.
Of which I read half and then put it down – my old English teacher is probably shaking her head in shame but it’s just not for me.
But The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry absolutely is.