On Ashover Hill

on_ashover_hill

On Ashover Hill
By Anthony Scott
Matador – £9.99

On Ashover Hill follows the story of William McTeer, who, in 1934 Naples, falls in love with a young Italian woman. The war invariably forces them apart, but as in many a love story, destiny intervenes, and somehow alerts fate into reuniting the star-crossed lovers to live happily ever after.

Well kind of.
Let it be said that throughout the 373 pages of this novel, we rather surprisingly get far more that might often be the case. For not only do we get the wartime romance, we proceed to follow the eventual offspring of William and Francesca, but also the offspring of the offspring!

This compels me to write that On Ashover Hill could quite easily have been something of an epic. In and of themselves, the storylines really are most interesting, but as a whole, the book is far too condensed. A prime example being the fact that many of the characters are given such a short time on the page, they’re not fully digested by the reader. Many of the twists and turns appear to be rushed, simply in order to be acquainted with the next character. And then yet another character we have yet to meet.

Moreover, the best, if not the strongest character, is obviously William’s son, Robert McTeer – a cutthroat, scumbag businessman of sorts, who will stop at absolutely nothing to seal his next deal. My only gripe being that the author Anthony Scott must have mentioned how annoyingly wealthy Robert became, at least three thousand, seven-hundred and ninety eight times and counting.

In Chapter 12 alone (‘A Visit Home’), we are reminded of Robert’s wealth, over and over: ‘’In less than 7 short years Robert had transformed Jones Ltd. The company, the brainchild of Ronald Jones, had become a business making profits of tens of millions of pounds and in turn made Ronald and Robert very wealthy men […]. ‘I’m just so busy,’ went on Robert, effortlessly ignoring his father, ‘with work being such a great success. Do you know Dad, I just can’t seem to stop making so much money!’ […[. Therefore at the age of only 25 and nine months, Robert was already a millionaire three times over and living the life of a young man without responsibility and with every possibility seeming achievable. He kept two apartments, one in his beloved Sheffield city centre, and one down in highbrow Chelsea for his many London trips. He had two sports cars, the Porsche 911 Carrera, this being the highflying executive car of choice, and a classic 1958 Bugatti Road Car. It was a life he had dreamed of and a life that his father could not understand. Indeed William viewed the 1980’s as a decade of indecent excess that, he said, would have repercussions for decades to come.’’

Talking of the eighties, not only is it a strange coincidence that I should be reading about this enterprising (twat) child so shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s death, the last book I reviewed was Graham Stewart’s Bang! A History of Britain In The Eighties.

Without wanting to give too much of the game away, let’s just say Robert McTeer is a truly despicable individual – even if his character does just appear to fizzle out. Perhaps wrongly so, I was waiting for the big, cathartic explosion towards the close of the book. As is, it merely morphs into a seemingly vague conclusion, replete with a rather strange, three-page final chapter that arrives from nowhere.

On Ashover Hill could have had all the makings to become a big holiday bestseller. It’s certainly got the scope; even if it does come off as being a little rushed and obvious.

David Marx

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