Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons
|Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Man-made and natural disasters strike a family who move to Thailand in search of a better life. A good read. Tony Parsons popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2012|
Tom Finn had been a builder, but bankruptcy intervened and taxi driving provided some sort of living for him, his wife, Tess and twins Rory and Keeva. And so it might have continued but for two burglars in his home. Tom 'confronted' them - and nearly went to jail, but his conviction mean that taxi driving was no longer an option. Then a chance encounter brought him the offer of another driving job - but this one was in Phuket in Thailand - and included accommodation. There's a saying that if something seems too good to be true then it probably is, but when you're as close to the bottom as Tom Finn there comes a time when you've got to take a chance and hope that this is your lucky day.
And it did seem as though it might have been. Hat Nai Yang was idyllic, from the first sighting of the elephants emerging from the sea, to the food available at the Almost World Famous Seafood Grill and the friendly locals. But, of course, there's a darker side to paradise as there always is when you're looking at a basically poor country which draws the attention of the rich traveller. It's not just the bar girls and the people with unusual 'tastes'. Before long Tom realises that he's on the edge of a property scam - and suddenly it becomes very personal. Paradise has a massive natural disaster waiting to happen too.
Tom Finn comes off the page fully clothed. He's a decent man, a hard worker trying to do his best, but who's just a little too prone to violence as an answer to his problems. His civilising influence is Tess, a teacher who is homeschooling the kids and whilst she'll support Tom in what he wants to do she's got a steely will about what she believes is right. I loved the kids - particularly Rory with his love of animals with a passion which could produce the raw edge of tears when he thought something was wrong. The subsidiary characters - neighbours and landlords, the Botans who are more like the parents Tom never knew, or the sea gypsies who have their own problems to cope with - are all three-dimensional, people you can care about.
The star of the show though is Phuket, but the Phuket the tourists know is just a sideline. This is the island where the locals have been making a living without the benefit of tourism. There's abundant wildlife from the fish in the turquoise Andaman sea and the turtles who lay their eggs on the beach to the gibbons who sing love songs in tropical forests.
Tony Parson's great skill is that he can cut to the core of relationships, be it human with human, human with animal or human with the natural world. When I started reading Catching the Sun I thought that it might be rather laddish for my tastes but I was surprised by how quickly I was drawn into the story and how quickly the people mattered. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag, not least because it's probably not a book I would have picked up without that nudge!
For more from Thailand we can recommend a crime story, Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill or The Beach by Alex Garland. For more about the natural disaster which struck Thailand in 2004 you might like to have a look at Let Not The Waves of the Sea by Simon Stephenson.
Tony Parsons was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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