Book Review for “Ever Rest” by Roz Morris.
Summary: Twenty years ago, Hugo and Ash were on top of the world. As the acclaimed rock band Ashbirds they were poised for superstardom. Then Ash went missing, lost in a mountaineering accident, and the lives of Hugo and everyone around him were changed forever. Irrepressible, infuriating, mesmerizing Ash left a hole they could never hope to fill. Two decades on, Ash’s fiancée Elza is still struggling to move on, her private grief outshone by the glare of publicity. The loss of such a rock icon is a worldwide tragedy. Hugo is now a recluse in Nepal, shunning his old life. Robert, an ambitious session player, feels himself both blessed and cursed by his brief time with Ashbirds, unable to achieve recognition in his own right. While the Ashbirds legend burns brighter than ever, Elza, Hugo and Robert are as stranded as if they were the ones lost in the ice. How far must they go to come back to life?
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; UK; Other Categories: Novel, Music, Rock Bands, Coming-of-Age.
I need to preface this review with the fact that I try to separate my personal life from my blogging life. Normally, this isn’t hard because I tend to schedule posts in advance, and that way I can let life roll by behind the scenes, while my blog plugs on, oblivious. This is why I feel I should mention that some of my reading of this novel was partially colored by a tragic loss in my family, and further in the blurb of this book it says “Ever Rest asks how we carry on after catastrophic loss.” Whoa boy – there’s a bullseye for you! At one point, I actually thought I should stop reading it for a bit when one part hit just a bit too close to home. I’m sure that Roz wouldn’t have minded because she became a friend in real life (and that’s why I’ll be referring to her as “Roz” and not “Morris” for this review), and she knows of this situation. Despite that, when I realized it might be more cathartic than painful, I decided to continue reading. I’m glad that I did, because sadly, I can tell you first-hand that what the characters go through in this book is absolutely spot on!
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Some of my regular readers might recognize Roz Morris from my review of her travel memoir “Not Quite Lost” which I totally adored. Unfortunately, until now, her fiction has been in genres that just aren’t my thing. So obviously, when she finished this book, which is straight literary fiction and therefore right up my alley, I had to read it. Even so, as a reviewer, I need to remain as objective as I can, and I believe that Roz will appreciate my honesty here. So, let’s begin with what didn’t work for me, and we can go on from there, okay?
The only real problems I had with this book were actually more about formatting. Roz decided to go with single quotation marks for her dialogues, which isn’t a bad thing in general. With this Roz also interjects a good deal of inner thoughts and unspoken words, as well as recounting of quotes. These pieces are indistinguishable from the rest of the text, which took me some getting used to. I’m thinking that to fix that, those bits could have been in single quotation marks and the dialogues in double. Another option might have been italics for the unspoken pieces (which might have looked strange). Aside from that, some transitions from flashbacks to the present confused me because there were no dates on them.
With that out of the way, I can now tell you that there were several aspects of this book that truly impressed me was to see how Roz is such a keen of observer of life. There were these passages throughout the book where someone would be somewhere and in the midst of what was going on in their heads, they would see things around them, like leaves, or building walls, or things on the street, or other people around them. These bits were totally effective in putting these characters in the here-and-now, while contrasting the mundane with the intricacies of what the characters were going through in those moments. Plus, the simplicity of the almost telegraphic narrative made the complexities of the situation all the more poignant.
Another thing that I’m sure Roz was aiming for that came through was an aspect of mourning that you won’t understand unless you’ve lost someone who was dynamic and widely loved. That is, how those people who weren’t necessarily all that close to the person, seem to all want a piece of their memory or legacy, almost trying to steal it away from the people who really were intimate parts of their lives. Obviously, this happens more with those who are famous than with everyday people, but I never noticed it before, and the way in which Roz introduced this into the story was, for me, stunningly accurate, if not a bit heartbreaking at the same time. On the other hand, Roz also deftly showed a level of jealousy (for lack of a better word) that came from those who were truly close to the lost person, for those who were trying (or seemed to be attempting) to usurp their places. That might not make sense, but trust me, it rang true.
I could write more about this novel (I didn’t even discuss how aptly Roz talked about music – and not just rock music, either), but the bottom line is… I can honestly say that this book is probably one I’ll want to read again (and those of you who know me, also know I almost never re-read novels). There’s far more here than I think I was able to absorb on the first reading, and I feel I’m doing it a disservice with this review by writing it now, considering my own delicate emotional state, which might not have allowed me to catch everything Roz was saying. Nevertheless, this is a very special book, about a fictional band, that has just the perfect amount of detail to make us believe they actually existed (all the way down to the song lists on their albums)! Although there were some technical things that slightly disturbed me, there’s no way I can’t warmly and wholeheartedly recommend this novel to everyone – even if you’re tone-deaf! I think the precise rating for this is 4.75 stars, but I’m going to round it up to five because… I don’t have a ¾ star available, and my little niggles are negligible!
Spark Furnace Books released “Ever Rest” by Roz Morris on June 3, 2021. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the author for sending me an ARC of this novel.