I’m more familiar with William Thirsk-Gaskill’s poetry than his prose. The self-confessed ‘socially inept Northerner,’ ‘the lost love-child of Ted Hughes and Alan Bennet,’ is a very fine poet, and I’m delighted to discover that he’s also a fine fiction writer.
Escape Kit is a novella in five parts and it’s a little gem. It revolves around four characters – fourteen-year-old Bradley, who’s travelling from York to Stevenage to visit his grandparents; his parents, Celia and Edmund, who have recently parted; and a man who is escaping from a German prisoner-of-war camp.
It would be unforgiveably spoilery to tell you exactly how all this fits together – there’s one beautifully-constructed reveal in particular – but it fits together with the precision of a Swiss watch. The characters are very well-drawn, each voice distinct, the prose is economical and unshowy. There’s no fat on the story at all.
It’s a very quiet, very English sort of story, about people going about their ordinary lives and finding themselves in an extraordinary situation. It would, I thought as I was reading it, film very well.