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One Manís Empire

by Geoffrey Bird

      John Butler has been written off by his late father as a dissolute neíer-do-well who is never likely to be any good, which is why his father does not leave John the bulk of his estate in his will. What he does leave him is a small, rather neglected coffee plantation in Ceylon that John has to visit in person in order to take possession. He is keen to sell the place and pocket the money to finance his gambling, but taunts by brutal neighbor, William Page, force him to make a go of it, at least until he can get some money out of it. But taken out of his usual haunts, Butler soon discovers what he is really made of.

This is a real feel-good story about somebody turning their life around and becoming a better person, even when all the odds are stacked against him. Perhaps this makes it sound worthy, though it is anything but. Expect an exciting adventure story involving a ship race on storm-tossed seas, courtroom drama, some low-key romance and constant confrontations. The flyleaf hints at tragedy, but this is quickly dealt with and forms little of the book (surprisingly little, considering) with Butler bouncing back at every turn, full of vigor and the will to succeed. Pages turn like lightning, and I canít remember the last time I read anything quite like this. Newcomer Geoffrey Bird has the power to take a rather old fashioned type of story and make it seem vibrant and modern. I do hope he is going to make a habit of writing books like this.

The Book

Macmillan New Writing (Pan Macmillan UK)
7 March 2008
0230701337 / 9780230701335
Fiction / Historical / 1874 onwards / Sri Lanka & various locations in England
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008