‘When you first meet someone you never know how long they’ll be in your life for.
For minutes or forever.
You never know when it starts.
And you don’t know when it stops’
These are some of the many wise words from a very elderly man, Billy Binns.
The Six Loves of Billy Binns is the debut novel from actor and writer Richard Lumsden. Inspired by old photographs he spotted on the walls of, what was, the library in Shepherd’s Bush in 1992, Richard Lumsden mapped out his ideas for this book. But it was only in 2015 that he finally sat down to complete a draft he could send to prospective publishers.
Tinder Press just published this charming book, The Six Loves of Billy Binns and I am delighted to bring you all my review today.
[ About the Book ]
At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and he knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.
As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a life full of hope and heartbreak.
This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.
[ My Review ]
The story of Billy Binns takes us right back to the 1st January 1900, the day Billy was born. Over 100 years later and Billy is in a nursing home with only his mixed up memories for company. Billy is old, he thinks the oldest man in Europe, His life consists of the same daily routine from bed to the communal resident’s room and back. With very little energy or appetite left, Billy knows his days are coming to an end. He starts to recall the five people in his life whom he loved, really loved and now longs for that feeling again, just one more time before he passes.
With the aid of a typewriter, he starts to tap out the words recounting his lost loves over the century of his life, taking the reader through a time-warp of memories. The book is divided up into five sections, almost like a collection of novellas, each transporting us to a different decade, with all the historical references of the time.
‘Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera, Mrs Jackson. Five of them is all. Five? Is that it? Five loves doesn’t sound like much after all this time…’
In any book there are parts that will affect you more than others. For me it was Billy’s experience during WW1 that had the greatest impact on me. Billy was determined from a young age to join up but as he was soon to realise, going to war was not the adventure he thought. The descriptions of the trenches – the death, the smells, the horror – are all portrayed so so vividly, I was immediately reminded of a book I often refer to, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Billy comes back from the war a changed man. Still in his youth, he looks for affection and finds it with Mary, an older experienced lady, who is carrying her own cross. Richard Lumsden’s description of the devastation left behind is wonderfully written, bringing the ferocity and trauma of war to life for the reader.
As Billy remembers, the story flits between the present day and Billy’s memories. We see Billy take his first tentative steps into manhood and how one error of judgement was to result in his life changing course in, what was for Billy, the very wrong direction.
Billy is a strange character in many ways. He made decisions that were at times quite dubious and to be honest, there were times when I really disliked what he said, what he did, his thoughts on women, his descriptions of women at various stages of his life. But these are the thoughts of a man, written by a man and I cannot claim to know the inner working of the male mind!!
Billy Binns lives a long life but ultimately it was not the happiest of lives. He did know love, however brief, but his days were tinged with an underlying sadness. Billy was born at the beginning of a new century into terrible poverty. He survived two world wars and witnessed a society in constant evolution and change.
The Six Loves of Billy Binns is an emotional read, from tears to frustration and even anger. Billy made wrong decisions, of that there is no doubt. Now, as he sits in his chair in the nursing home, he looks back and tries to decipher his thoughts between reality and imagination. The image of the nursing home and it’s residents is depicted in a very compassionate manner. Billy is unable to communicate that well vocally, so we see what he sees, we hear his thoughts when he can longer get a word out, too tired, too weary, too weak.
The Six Loves of Billy Binns is a book for those who like something a little unconventional, a little different, yet full of warmth and emotion. It contains very heartrending moments and some harrowing scenes that is sure to impact many readers. Love can be challenging, love can make us saddened but it can also fill our hearts to bursting and make us feel like we can do anything. We all wish for love in our lives. We all want to be loved and we all hope to pass on having known it. This is Billy Binn’s story of the loves he had and the loves that could never really be his to own.
I’ll leave you with the words of the author, Richard Lumsden:
‘It’s a story about love, disappointment, and the flaws that make us human. Billy has a tendency to reinterpret his own history, but ultimately he’s an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life, and I hope the readers might take him to heart on his journey to remember what love feels like.’
The Six Loves of Billy Binns was published on 24th January and is now available to purchase in hardback, ebook and audiobook format.
[ Bio ]
Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions.
THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.
Website ~ http://richardlumsden.com/
Twitter ~ @lumsdenrich