Thursday 20 September 2018

Baxter's Requiem by Matthew Crow @CorsairBooks @LittleBrownUK @BrooDoherty @hayleycamis #BaxtersRequiem

Let me tell you a story, about a man I knew, and a man I know...
Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and grudgingly finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.
Baxter is many things - raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur - but 'good patient' he is not. He had every intention of living his twilight years with wine, music and revelry; not tea, telly and Tramadol. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare - until he meets Gregory.
At only nineteen years of age, Greg has suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of giving up on life before he even gets going.
Determined to save the boy, Baxter decides to enlist his help on a mission to pay tribute to his long-lost love, Thomas: the man with whom he found true happiness; the man he waved off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned. The best man he ever knew.
With Gregory in tow Baxter sets out on a spirited escape from Melrose, bound for the war graves of Northern France. As Baxter shares his memories, the boy starts to see that life need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live.
Baxter's Requiem is a glorious celebration of life, love and seizing every last second we have while we're here.

Baxter's Requiem by Matthew Crow was published by Corsair on 6 September 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

There are certain books that I proudly display on my 'keeper' shelf, and Matthew Crow's 'In Bloom' is one of those. I read and reviewed it here on Random Things way back in September 2013 and I've bought many copies since then. I also have a special place in my heart for  his novel 'Another Place' which I read and reviewed in 2017.

I was delighted to hear that Crow had published Baxter's Requiem, it seems like a very long time since I've read him. I have not been disappointed. Yet again, this young talented author has stolen my heart, taken my breath away, and left me in tears. This is a truly exquisite story, and I've already cleared a space on my shelf, this one is not leaving the house!

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old. He has all of his faculties intact, he's bright and funny, and dry witted. He's also fallen down the stairs, and until he's properly back on his feet, he's taken a place at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.

Mr Baxter is not the best of patients. He's used to living his life just as he wants to. With music and wine and fine food and the company of his friends. He doesn't have a partner, or children and has plenty of money. Melrose Gardens has never had a patient quite like Baxter before.

Baxter doesn't give his affection away freely. He's sharp tongued and is nobody's fool, but when he meets nineteen-year old Greg, he sees something in him that he thinks that he can fix. Greg has given up on life. He lives with his father who spends his time either working, or drunk. Greg used to be the best at everything; he was a top sportsman, on course for a higher education; destined for great things. Greg has suffered a loss in life that is so huge and so painful that nothing else matters. Coming to work at Melrose Gardens; serving tea and shuffling paperwork is about all that he can manage.

Baxter knows that at the age of ninety-four, he hasn't realistically got lots of years ahead of him, and his one wish is to to travel to the war cemeteries in France to find the resting place of his one and only love Thomas.
Thomas was called up towards the end of the Second World War and didn't return; missing presumed dead and Baxter has mourned for him and thought of him every single day since.

By enlisting Greg's help to ensure that he gets to France, Baxter gives Greg a purpose, and what follows is a beautifully constructed tale of how one man helps another in such a wonderfully subtle and unassuming way.

Matthew Crow has structured his novel perfectly. The reader learns about Baxter's early life; how he became wealthy, and how he dealt with his sexuality in times that were so different to today. At it's heart; Baxter's Requiem is a heartwarming and incredibly insightful love story, with a difference.

As in his previous novels, the author excels at creating the most wonderful of characters. Not only the delight that is Baxter himself, but the supporting cast who stand equally alongside him. His lifelong friend Winnifred; crazy and spontaneous and an utter delight. Thomas: the man who showed him the perfection of true love and not forgetting the wickedly funny staff at Melrose Gardens. Each and every one of them are impeccably portrayed, I felt as though I knew all of them intimately.

Baxter's Requiem shows us the all-enduring power of relationships, both long-term and newly formed and is an absolute joy to read. I laughed and I shed tears. Stunning, and highly recommended.

Matthew Crow was born and raised in Newcastle. 

Having worked as a freelance journalist since his teens he has contributed to a number of publications including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer. 

He has written for adults and YA. His book My Dearest Jonah, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

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