About the Book
Title: Are We All Having a Lovely Time?
Author: Neil Saunders
Publication: I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again Publishing; 1st edition (10 Nov 2013)
Summary: Ben Cashew really thinks he's something special! Being the cruise director of the Ocean Explorer gives him ample opportunity to show himself off as the natural performer he is. Since childhood he dreamed of being a professional entertainer, so considers that he has done very well for himself. But when a drunken séance causes the boy he bullied at school, and committed suicide 20 years before, to come back to Earth, he is confronted by his bitter victim as to whether or not he really is a success. He is forced to re-evaluate his life and perhaps both bully and victim, through each other, can even find redemption.
I have previously read and reviewed Neil Saunders' first publication, Al Qaeda Broke my Suitcase and other short stories, a collection which I enjoyed immensely. I was therefore looking forward to reading his first novel, Are We All Having a Lovely Time?. Both publications have a great cover, which I think immediately appeals to the reader.
Set on a cruise ship with a small cast of characters Are We All Having a Lovely Time? has strong political themes, both British and international, a similarity that can be drawn with Saunders' first publication. The characters discuss Montenegro, former Yugoslavia and Serbia; the European Union; "the first cruise holidays available to ordinary people were provided by Hitler".
Another strong theme is education, and everything that falls under that from being good at sports to bullying to the state of the education system and how funding is raised for schools. Ben Cashew, the main character in the book, bullied Rhys at school which led to Rhys' suicide. Until the drunken séance he hasn't given Rhys a second thought. But by reconnecting, both characters stand to change and maybe gain something.
Saunders' second publication doesn't disappoint. The writing flows well and the characters are believable. As an author Saunders has a strong voice and writes convincingly on subjects he is clearly passionate about. Are We All Having a Lovely Time? is a good read.
About the Author
When Neil Saunders arrived at primary school he could already read, his mother having taught him from a cartoon strip in the Daily Mirror. School was dangerously easy, and he achieved with little effort, making him rather lazy. He didn't enjoy school and was obsessed, not with reading, but with pop music.
Having spent years in factories and finally managing to get a permanent position as an admin officer in an office, he took a short story writing course. He discovered that he could write. And that is how he came to write Al Qaeda Broke My Suitcase and other stories.
Are We All Having A Lovely Time? is his first novel.