A small quiet book in which an eleven year old Welsh boy asks questions fundamental to life. The Testimony of Taliesin Jones by Rhidian Brook is the story of Taliesin and his questions about how God fits into his life. “At night the questions come: why am I here and not there? Why am I me and not them? Before I was me, where was I?” It is a novel about growing up, about change, uncertainty and belief, set in Cwmglum, a small rural community in West Wales.
Taliesin’s father is a sheep farmer, his older brother Jonathan has recently gained a girlfriend and learned how to swear convincingly. Their mother left home last year and now lives in West Haven with Toni the hairdresser. “The events of last year linger around the rooms in petrified time. When Taliesin’s mother left, the clocks in the house all stopped. It was she who set the pendulum swinging and it was always her who turned the key of the carriage clock that ticked a furious little tick on the mantelpiece in the sitting room.” Everything that was safe and predictable in Taliesin’s life is suddenly different. And warts are growing all over his hands.
Influenced by the books he reads – his latest book is Lord of the Flies – he asks questions, his thoughts peppered with quotes from books he has read. He is anxious, bullied at school, and must find a way to tell his piano teacher Billy Evans that he can’t read music and has been pretending while muddling through by listening. And then he sees Billy, who is also a healer, straighten the back of a bent old woman. When Billy makes Taliesin’s warts disappear, Taliesin wants to heal too and sets up a group at school called The Believers.
I fell for this book from the first page in which Taliesin explores his latest book, an atlas, sent by his mother for his birthday. “He opens the book and releases a smell of paper, a fresh smell that reminds him of exercise books distributed at the beginning of a new school year: green for Geography, pink for Biology, grey for Religious Education.”
This is a book about faith, but it is about so much more. A boy looking for his place in the world, trying to make sense of things, as we all do. It is a simple story, sometimes touching, sometimes funny, with a depth that makes it stay with you afterwards.
BUY THE BOOK
This is Rhidian Brook’s first novel. Here’s my review of another, The Aftermath.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE TESTIMONY OF TALIESIN JONES by @Rhidianbrook #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Pw via @SandraDanby