Recently a friend asked me if I had to make a kind of desert island discs list, but with the ten best books I had ever read, what would they be. Several books came to mind amongst them was Prichard’s Nose by Sam Adams. This is the review I did for it which appeared in the Tivyside in 2009 and now I am rereading the book, and loving it more than the first time.
A Man with No Nose
The latest fictional offering from publishers Y Lolfa does not read like a debut novel, though that is what it is. Prichard’s Nose by Sam Adams has all the assured construction and style of a long experienced writer. It is a beautifully crafted piece of work with a depth of humanity and considered observation which mark it out as the work of a genuinely exceptional talent.
Offering not one story, but two, cleverly interwoven so that each is as arresting as the other, we are carried first into the mind of Martin, the researcher seeking the Prichard of history. This Prichard is the man who wrote Twm Shon Catti, and died in Swansea impoverished and without a nose and through an extraordinary piece of luck Martin falls across Prichard’s attempt at an autobiography. Here the second story begins and in this the author has excelled, constructing a totally believable historic document issuing from the 1800’s which carries the reader back in time and offers detailed and eloquent descriptions of Prichard’s early years amongst the rural poor in Wales, and his later adventures in London, where he became part of the theatrical world of the day. Such a boldly stylish reconstruction of the period requires not only a powerful imagination but a genuine awareness of history, all of which is evident in abundance throughout the book.
Despite the title the mystery of the nose is merely hinted at, and remains unanswered until the last. No-one, it seems has any idea where Prichard lost it. All that is known is that when he died he was wearing a false, wax nose held on by a pair of spectacles. But echoing into the modern day world Martin’s wife has a ‘nose job’ and suddenly becomes attractive to other men, an unexpected twist to the tale that lends a connection that is not lingered over but nonetheless increases the reader’s feeling that Martin should be the man to finally be vouchsafed the truth, reward for all his hard work and persistence. That life does not always mirror the fictional certitudes is laid bare at the book’s conclusion. This is a wonderful book and one which deserves the very highest praise.
Prichard’s Nose by Sam Adams is published by Y Lolfa £9.95 at all good bookshops.