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The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Marking ten years since The Good Mayor won the Saltire First Book Award, Black & White have just published a brand-new edition of this international bestseller. It has been published in 20 different languages and has sold in approximately 23 territories.

The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll is a novel that I can honestly say is THE most quirky book I have EVER read. It is described as ‘a novel of love, loss, magic, friendship, wonderful food, a brass band, an Italian witch, a large lawyer, an occasional dog and a car chase that takes place at walking pace’

From the very first page it was obvious how very different this book would be…

‘These days, not many people visit Dot. Not many people have a reason to sail so far north into the Baltic, particularly not into the shallow seas at the mouth of the River Ampersand. There are so many little islands offshore, some of them appearing only at low tide, some of them, from time to time, coalescing with their neighbours with the capriciousness of an Italian government, that the cartographers of four nations long ago abandoned any attempt to map the place.’

Littered throughout with fictitious places of a grammatical nature such as Dot, Dash, Umlaut and Ampersand, The Good Mayor is a treat for your imagination. This is a book that you slowly navigate as you lose yourself in the magic of Andrew Nicoll’s writing. Dot is a town of wonder, populated by a very unconventional folk but in particular with one very appreciated and gentle man, Tibo Krovic, the Mayor of the town. Tibo Krovic has been the Mayor of Dot for many years, garnering great respect from all. His fairness, his work ethic, his general demeanor, his patience with every single person he encounters, has earned him the affectionate title of Good Tibo Krovic, The Good Mayor.

Tibo Krovic lives alone, with routine being a very important aspect of his day. He gets up at the same time each morning, stopping at The Golden Angel where he will order ‘a strong Viennese coffee with plenty of figs, drink it, suck one mint and leave the rest of the bag on the table.’ He walks into the council chambers of the Town Hall and continues up a green marble staircase to his office, where he carries out his mayoral duties in the presence of his secretary Mrs. Agatha Stopak. Tibo is in love and has been for some time with this woman, this perfect woman, who symbolises everything that Tibo desires. He studies her daily, longingly, but he keeps his thoughts to himself, as Agatha Stopak is married and Tibo respects this however frustrated it makes him feel.

One day Agatha Stopak’s lunchbox falls into a fountain and life for Tibo Krovic changes forever. He sets off on a journey of love and loss, a journey filled with passion and mysticism, a journey of hope. As a reader we experience these sensations with Tibo. We witness Agatha, as her life begins to unravel. We are introduced to an Italian woman with other senses, a strega, a witch. This woman can sense things, she feels things, she knows things and, through her, Agatha and Tibo’s relationship has a chance to flourish…..

The Good Mayor is a novel filled with pure magic and beauty. A difficult book to pigeon-hole, magic realism is probably the best genre, the best fit. Dot is a town where anything can happen, a place where hidden forces hide in the cracks of people’s homes and in the hearts and minds of it’s inhabitants. Tibo Krovic and Agatha Stopak are unusual characters, as are all the folk featured in this novel, but at the heart of their story are very real themes, that of love and romance, of hope and of friendship.

The Good Mayor is the perfect read for all who seek the unconventional, the peculiar. It is pure escapism. It is quite an extraordinary read, a very fantastical read, an eccentric read, filled with a lovable array of characters who inhabit a curious town, a forgotten town in a forgotten part of the Baltic.

‘The men of Dot needed no maps to navigate the islands which protect their little harbour. They found their way through the archipelago by smell. They guided themselves by the colour of the sea or the patterns of the waves or the rhythm of the current or the position of this eddy or that piece of slack water or the shape of the breakers where two tides crossed. The men of Dot sailed confidently out of their harbour seven centuries ago, taking skins and dried fish to the ports of the Hanseatic League and they sailed home yesterday with cigarettes and vodka that nobody else need know anything about….’

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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