The Special and the Ordinary
John Haworth, despite innate shyness, has floated upward in a comfortable English home environment under the influence of much older sisters and their friends. After he begins a new school in the early fifties, the seven-year-old is looking lost when a classmate, Martin Holford, decides to take him under his wing. And so begins a long friendship.
Ordinary rules of life apparently do not apply to the confident Martin except, perhaps, when he allows his mischievous humor excessive free rein against the self-important. While on separate coming-of-age journeys, Martin and John get on fine, despite John's occasional resentment about Martin's ability to bounce back after perpetrating 'wrong notes' against the wealthy while John slaves away attempting to make new music sound modern. John, who has no desire to be to be an apathetic musician like his viola teacher, unfortunately lacks the talent, personality, and love of limelight to match his glamorous piano teacher or Katherine, the singer he accompanies on the piano. Now all he has to do is somehow find his place amid an uncertain career as a ghost composer where chances come as infrequent as success.
The Special and the Ordinary shares the unique story of two young people as they come of age and step into the future, each with a different idea on what it means to be true to themselves. iUniverse awarded The Special and the Ordinary the 'Editor's Choice' designation. Here are excerpts from the enthusiastic editorial reviews:
""Definitely a worthwhile read, I recommend The Special and the Ordinary to lovers of literary fiction."" - Pacific Book Review
""...heartwarming and uplifting."" - Kirkus Reviews
""The writing is clear and refreshing, with clean sentences that move the story along at a brisk pace."" - Clarion Review
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KIRKUS REVIEW: Clapham's (Odd Socks, 2013) novel chronicles the very different paths of two young schoolboys growing up in 1950s England. John Haworth and Martin Holford are two unlikely friends who forge a bond at their primary school in Porterfield, "an industrial city halfway up England." John is a quiet, gifted musician, while Martin is an unbelievably bright, witty young man with pluck. The novel traces their lives from their first primary school years to grammar school, university, and beyond. John stumbles into a successful musical career by meeting Daphne Lagrange, a celebrated pianist who, through various connections, is able to get him gigs as a music critic, amanuensis, and accompanist. Martin takes a more public route on his path to adulthood, enjoying stints as a performative clergyman and "faith healer" and a recruiter for the local Northern Coal Board Symphony Orchestra. Throughout the novel, Clapham ties in the stories of other colorful figures in John's and Martin's lives. He adds complexity with people such as Katherine Clements, an ailing music star whom John accompanies on tour; Tamas Mihaly, a Hungarian conductor whom Martin recruits for the orchestra; and Wesley Johnson, an up-and-coming composer from the West Indies whom John encounters in Oxford. Ultimately, although the overall plot of this deliberately paced novel isn't very compelling, Clapham's portrait of a friendship between the two unlikely protagonists, which lasts through decades and various stages of life, is heart-warming and uplifting. Also, through various characters' tales, the author makes a poignant statement about the subjectivity of success: even if one isn't in the limelight, one may still make a considerable impact in the arts--and on the world. A slow-paced but often charming and enjoyable book about music, friendship, and defining success on one's own terms.
Pacific Book Review Reviewed by: Lisa Brown-Gilbert David Clapham's authentic and insightful narrative, The Special and The Ordinary whets the literary curiosity of readers with the story of cultivated, British friends John Haworth and Martin Holford and their individual journeys through life as they evolved into adults. This coming of age tale, follows childhood friends, John and Martin from their youth to adulthood as they grow up in the industrial city of Porterfield, Britain during the post World War II eras of the 1950s and 1960s. Similarly, the two friends experience a fairly comfortable adolescence seeded with possibilities. Each young man hailed from a decent home environment, had educated, well connected families and both fostered individual skills that could take them far in life. However, that is where the similarities between the boys ended. The boys were opposites, when it came to personalities and the way in which they perceived themselves in life, which made all the more difference in them by the time they reached adulthood. John's "ordinary" persona is shy, intelligent, musically disposed, and exudes a serious approach to establishing himself as a musician in the world of classical music culture. But, on the other end of the spectrum is Martin, whose "special" persona is charismatic, intelligent, precocious and exudes a lax approach to his path in life, as he changes career directions several times. While John works diligently to become rooted in the world as a classical musician, Martin easily flits, from being an evangelist to a faith healer to the legal field and finally to politics. Although the two young men found themselves on very different roads in life, the two would always find their paths somehow intersecting time and again. Wholly, I found The Special and The Ordinary to be a respectable literary read. What makes this book worth reading is not that the story moves at a breakneck pace, or hosts an intriguing mystery or posits evil lurking in the dark. Instead, it is the winning combination of intelligent context, intriguing characters and the author's eloquent writing style all of which, thoughtfully presents the many elements of the human condition as they occur within the lives of the characters. What I also enjoyed was the fine job that author David Clapham did with the incorporation of fascinating snippets of British History and detailed gazes into the world of the classical musician and culture. Definitely a worthwhile read, I recommend The Special and The Ordinary to lovers of literary fiction.