THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP by H. G. Parry. Review.

THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP by H. G. Parry.

Orbit Books. p/b. £8.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Another late night phone call from his brother disturbs Rob’s evening and adds just another sliver of a crack into his relationship; Lydia knows something is going on but he is far from keen to reveal the truth behind his brother’s late night episodes. Despite Lydia’s protestations they both know he will rush to his brother’s aid.

This time it’s another escapee, loose somewhere in the English department of the University of Wellington where Charley, also known as Dr. Charles Sutherland, is a lecturer. His usually messy office offers no helpful clue as to where this particular Dickens character may be hiding. Charley never was able to keep his ideas and opinions to himself when reading. Now he’s managed to free and shape Uriah Heep, and to add insult to injury, Rob never has been a fan of Dickens.

The first time Charley brought something out of a book he was four years old. Since he finished university and moved back to Wellington he has been dragging Rob into these situations but this time it is different. Charley usually has a way to return characters to their books but now it appears he is not the only person who can draw them forth, so the question of the moment is: can Charley banish a character that he did not summon himself?

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep has a fantastic premise. We have seen the idea before but with Rob and Charley’s story interwoven with familiar classic characters and played out with a gothic, Victorian undertone, this one has its own magic that delights and entertains.

The story is played out mainly from Rob’s point of view but another character takes on a narrative role at times to immerse the reader into the ‘fictional’ aspects of the Sutherlands’ lives. As narrators, both have their own voice and a set of motives which, of course, do not always line up, but the bonds of familial love anchor the heart of the story.

Those unfamiliar with Dickens, and David Copperfield in particular, will find some of the references lost on them but that does not mean that the overriding story and its well-depicted characters (including those who are new and firmly Parry’s own) cannot be greatly enjoyed. Anyone who loves reading and literature should give this a try.