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Something to Live For by Richard Roper
‘Sometimes you need to risk everything…to find your something.’
Something to Live For is the gorgeous debut from Richard Roper. Published with Orion, it is described as a novel that has ‘the warmth of David Nicholls and the charm and humour of Nick Hornby….a brilliant debut exploring one man’s attempt to let go of his past and start his life afresh.’
From the same team who brought us the wonderful novel, The Lido by Libby Page, Something to Live For is another book that will have you reaching for the hankies. Richard Roper’s inspiration for the novel was from an article he read about council workers. In the 1980s a law was passed in the UK making it the responsibility of the local councils to handle the burial of any individual who was found dead and alone in their home. These council workers spent their days working with ‘the ephemera of those who’ve slipped through the cracks, searching for clues to a next of kin, working out how much money the deceased has left behind.’ In the article Richard Roper was struck by the fact that many of these council workers attend the funerals, giving some last minute respect to the poor unfortunates who would otherwise have no mourners present. Richard Roper was very affected by the article, giving him the impetus to use it as the setting for his now debut novel, Something to Live For.
He bases the story around Andrew, a council worker who finds himself employed in the relevant department that deals with these lonely souls. These people have been somehow forgotten by society and left to die, alone, on a chair while watching TV, in bed in their sleep, through accidental death or other reasons, their bodies left undiscovered for days/weeks as there is no-one calling to them. How very very sad and tragic this is. Andrew provides them with a little dignity for their final resting place. He sifts through their belongings looking for clues to next-of-kin, anyone who can mourn their passing, sometimes with success and, sadly, other times without. This job suits Andrew. He is a loner, preferring his own space, as conversing with others has become a difficulty for him. He chats to a group of like-minded train enthusiasts online but even that, at times, proves challenging for Andrew. He has completely lost the ability to interact socially with others, so when he is asked any personal questions he makes up stuff. It’s easier to create an illusion than to let strangers into his real world. But, as time passes, Andrew finds it more difficult to separate the truth from the lies and his so-called ‘perfect’ life starts to crumble.
Andrew meets Peggy, a woman who joins his department. She is to shadow him initially, assisting him in the day-to-day, digging through old papers etc looking for relatives and/or money but after awhile Andrew struggles with her company. He starts to wonder about his life, about his future. Could Peggy be the one to help him start to live again?
Something to Live For is a highly emotional read. There is something terribly harrowing about the inspiration behind it that just stayed with me after I turned the final page. Andrew is a wonderful character. Richard Roper’s portrayal is spot on, making it all too easy to visualise this broken and lonely man. But as the novel opens up, we see Andrew begin to stand a little straighter, to open his eyes to this world he only chooses to just about exist in.
Something to Live For is ultimately an uplifting and completely captivating read. It is filled with pain and tragedy but also with humour and inspiration. It will bring a tear to your eye at times but also it will make you smile. Richard Roper is quoted as saying ‘Sometimes the smallest gestures can be the most meaningful’, a lesson for all of us to take away from this novel.
Something to Live For captures something magical, something quite special. Littered with exquisite prose, it really is quite an astonishing debut. Andrew’s story begs of us all to go out and Find Our Something, that one thing that can bring a little happiness into our daily lives, however big or small that might be.
For me it’s seeing my children smile. really smile, in that carefree way that only a child can do.
Have you Found Your Something yet?
(c) Swirl and Thread
Order your copy online here.