Silas Ackroyd’s An Englishman’s Tales of a Small Yorkshire Village is a collection of novels and short stories centered around a fictional town in northern England called Lesser Bolsop.
These stories, with a few exceptions, take place in a time stretching between World War I and a decade or two past World War II. The plot lines follow the lives of various village inhabitants, and many of the stories interweave incidents and characters. Thus, the alcoholic woman who gives change to children in one story is revealed in another to be a mother decimated by the loss of her children during WWII. A character who plays a supportive role as a founder of a secret organization in one narrative, Tommy Needham, is fully developed with his own history and challenges in another.
Ackroyd has a strong narrative voice and, according to the author’s note, folds much of his experience of small town life into the pages. Consequently, the book has a genuine feel of authenticity, and the characters display the resilience and backbone that surfaced in Britain during WWII. In particular, one of the major characters, Billy Turnham, shows an Horatio Alger-like tenacity as he rises from an odd-jobs man to a wealthy industrialist.
Although Ackroyd’s depiction of small town life is memorable, he strikes a false note when he tries to introduce elements of science fiction into his narrative. The time traveler who takes partial possession of Billy’s wife, for instance, creates an unnecessary confusion of genres (historical fiction with science fiction), and both the character and science fiction thread are too sparsely developed to engender a suspension of disbelief.
Unfortunately, the stories also suffer greatly from grammar issues: many incomplete and run-on sentences, fragments, and the improper use of punctuation. The problematic writing mechanics are likely to put off many readers.
Ackroyd is a natural storyteller, however, and for those able to ignore the slips in grammar, his stories will have some rewards.
Also available as an ebook.