Review Blog

Feb 21 2017

Love, ghosts and nose hair by Steven Herrick

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UQP, 2017. ISBN 9780702228780
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Love, Sex, Death, Family, Humour. The author of 22 books the first of which was published in the early 1990's, Herrick is well known for his performance poetry and verse novels which touch on the ordinary in a most extraordinary way. Love, ghosts and nose hair was first published in 1996 with loud acclaim, and its reissue along with sequel A place like this, exposes a new generation of readers to his words of wisdom, encapsulated in fragments of sentences, while giving another life to books which demand another outing.
Jack, plain Jack, narrates the story of his family: dad a journalist, often away from home for long hours, sister, Desiree, who has left school and works in a bookshop, Jack sixteen and hungry for things to happen in his life: love (sex), dealing with his mother's ghost still wondering through the house and his problem of nose hair.
Through a series of sometimes terse, often funny poems, Jack tells the reader about his family. In doing so, he tells more about himself and his dreams, especially those concerning Annabel Browning. Along the way we hear of their mother's death from cancer, including one of the most poignant lines written about a family in despair:
'They said the pills eased the pain - they only gave them to Mum' followed by the image of Desiree in her bedroom examining her breasts, and the ghost in a red evening dress who now visits their house. Dad drinks each night and seven years on has a date which ends with him telling the woman all about his wife who is still there. Finally Jack takes Annabel out and they become lovers, evincing a talk with his teacher, ending when Jack tells her he prefers orange condoms. It is pithy comments like this that send a message without being obvious. And another example that needs airing: Desiree has no boyfriend 'because she has perfect eyesight and all her brain cells'.
Some of the poems are written by Dad and a few by Desiree and Annabel giving a different perspective through the tale, but all are about Jack and how he sees himself. We know he will be alright when he begins to see that he no longer needs the ghost in his life and looks forward to what ever will happen next despite the work of the vocational guidance officer.
A superbly written series of poems makes up this tale of Jack and the ending of his childhood, and the sequel, A place like this, takes us along on his journey after leaving school. I loved it first time round and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.
Fran Knight

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