Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Cuckoos of Batch Magna

Author: Peter Maughan
Genre:  Literature

Five Stars
When Sir Humphrey Strange, 8th baronet and squire of Batch Magna passes on, he leaves an entailed estate to his relative known as Humph, an amiable, overweight short-order cook from the Bronx.

Now known as Sir Humphrey Franklin T. Strange, 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna, he is persuaded by his Uncle Frank to turn the property into a theme-park for people rich enough to afford it.  However, in doing so, he learns he will have to evict the tenants (pensioners) of the estate's houseboats to leave.  This is easier said than done once Humphrey actually meets them.
When I first started reading this book I wasn't sure what to expect.  I thought it started slow; but soon I realized that I was being given a look into the daily lives of the tenants of Batch Magna:  Phineas Cook, the Lt. Commander James Cunningham, Jasmine, Owain and others meet to discuss what to do about the new Sir Humphrey - deciding that they could find various ways to kill him - in order to stay in their beloved homes, the houseboats.
This book takes place over a very short period of time; time in which we get to know each person who lives on the boats and the people around them.  Time to learn how they view their lives, their relationships, their families, their friends.  It is a wonderful book, giving one the chance to see what life is like in a quaint English-Welsh border village with people you want to see the best for; and people you know deserve the worst.  I grew to like these people - Phineas and Sir Humphrey the most - and if this is what Wales is like, I must certainly add it to my places to visit someday.
It is a journey for Humphrey - a small-time cook who believes he has just hit the jackpot with his title, landing not only that but the hand of a Wall Street wizard, Sylvia, as his soon-to-be bride.  It is a journey that changes not only him, but the people around him.  For example, Phineas, not knowing who Humphrey is, takes him "on a spin" in his auto while Phineas is attempting to escape 'certain death' from a jealous boyfriend of a waitress he ill-advisedly slept with (you will have to read the book to find out the details, but it is quite humorous).  Throughout the course of the day, they have an adventure, spend an afternoon drinking with each other and come to like each other, even after he discovers Humphrey, wracked with guilt, tells him who he is.
Humphrey's journey to find himself and what he wants out of life takes him from the United States to Batch Magna, and it is indeed quite enchanting to travel with him as he makes his way from being unsure of what he wants to knowing what lies ahead. 
The author provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review, but this in no way affected the review.

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