Bold as love by gwyneth jones Review and Opinion


Bold As Love
Gwyneth Jones
Gollancz paperback £5.99

review by Duncan Lawie

Bold As Love begins a trilogy and revolves around a central triangle - perhaps a love triangle - and eventually a triumvirate. Power, politics and music form a further, thematic triangle of the book. The central trio comprises Ax, a respected but not commercially successful guitarist, Sage, a millionaire rock star who gives away his money and lives in a van, and Fiorinda, a 16-year-old singer and guitarist with a lifetime of bitter experience already behind her. The setting is England in the year that an Act of Dissolution is about to bring the United Kingdom to an end. Fiorinda is the heart of the story and the book begins with her. As she escapes her disastrous childhood, she falls in with Sage and all three are caught up in the Home Secretary's 'rock and roll working party'. This appears to be an attempt by the government to appease and distract the counter-cultural movement, but things go horribly wrong and the primary protagonists find themselves catapulted to real power.
   As a result, they are forced to cope with a series of national disasters, which seem to be harvested from the most depressing futures imagined in 1980s' Interzone. Immigrants, Islamic separatists, skinheads and computer viruses vie with more personal disasters and crises. At least there isn't a new European war, but this is primarily because the rest of the continent seems to be in a similar fix. The only tools our protagonists have to contend with such misfortunes are attitude and music. As Bryan Adams sang, "to be young is to be sad, is to be high." Gwyneth Jones writes convincingly about music, festival lifestyles, hippy culture and the mass of confused, right-meaning, not always sensible people. Her application of the tensions inherent in a band to the group dynamics of government makes the interaction of the central characters wholly believable. However, it is difficult to get a feeling for how events have affected those outside the counter-cultural movement. There is little feeling for an England beyond the new-agers, skinheads and hippies. That middle England must still exist is made apparent by the continued existence of a civil service, which almost seems to be allowing these musicians to be playing at such roles as President and Prime Minister. In fact, one of the protagonists goes so far as to call in the police when things get too sticky! Of course, the quotidian is rarely of sufficient interest to dwell upon and the real world indulgence of the voters has shown itself in London's Mayoral elections.
   Bold As Love is a novel of England, having lost Empire, Commonwealth, Union and being left with more confusion than promise. As the first book of a trilogy, it is natural that this volume describes the storm clouds rising and shows little of how England might survive such crises. The book asks questions which a British audience genuinely needs to prepare itself to answer in the near future. Whether we bend, break or are transformed is not decided. Yet the ending has an element of hope - recognition of the importance of remaining human against all the odds.

Bold as love by gwyneth jones Review and Opinion

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