Wednesday 12 June 2024

Wake up, Mr Kean by Bridget Crowley review by Lynda Waterhouse


Wake up, Mr Kean by Bridget Crowley review by Lynda Waterhouse

Wake Up Mr Kean is a funny and exciting time slip story with a Cornish setting.

Charlie and his Mum have recently moved to Penzance from Newlyn on the Cornish Coast to start a new life following an incident in which Charlie’s fisherman father was lost at sea.  Charlie is adjusting to his new life when he  meets Mr Clemo who runs a second-hand book shop and is a former actor, ‘Once an actaw , always an actaw, I daresay.’

Clemo is a leading light in the Pam Drams – The Penzance Amateur Dramatic Society. They are trying to raise funds to save The Old Theatre that stands in the yard out of the back of the Hope and Glory pub. Charlie is drawn to the Old Theatre and encounters a man there with wild eyes and black curls and his rendition of Shakespeare holds him spellbound. After this encounter Charlie is determined to save the Old Theatre. He also meets a lad, Davey, who is struggling to ‘manage’ the old actor so that he can give one of his electrifying performances. They connect through time.

The story is beautifully written and has a strong sense of place. It shows the lives of local people. Many landmarks are featured: Penlee Park, Morrab Library, and the Promenade, and events such as Mazey Day feature in the storyline. The time slip element is inspired by a performance given by Edmund Kean, the great nineteenth century actor at the Old Theatre. It is refreshing to read a story set in a seaside town that is solely about the locals and their lives.

Sparkling dialogue is one of the strongest elements of this story; establishing character, showing not telling, and moving the plot along. The lively dialogue is peppered with Cornish. The story is filled with a variety of colourful characters, quite literally in the case of Jowan Spargo and her changing hair colour.

Despite its particular setting the themes explored are universal. The issues of creating homes for local people in rural areas and not only providing profit for property developers, versus the need to maintain the heritage and recognise the magical history of a place is relevant in many places.

Throughout the course of the novel Charlie discovers that not everyone has good intentions and that people, even his mother, can have mixed feelings. As Charlie witnesses the growing friendship between Tom, the pub landlord, and his mother it makes him uneasy but it helps him to understand and connect with Tom’s challenging daughter, Bel.

People are not perfect. Even Edmund Kean had his struggles. As Charlie says to Bel, ‘Perhaps what we want isn’t always the best thing. Maybe the best thing takes some getting used to.’

For many years Bridget has inspired and supported me to design and deliver creative writing workshops in art galleries and museums. She has an innate connection with children and a wicked sense of humour. Check out her website at to hear more about her fascinating life.

Here’s hoping her magical writing can be ‘rediscovered’ and her latest novel is enjoyed by a flotilla of new readers as it deserves to be. You can also buy the book in audio, read by Bridget.

ISBN 978-1-917022-32-3

Jelly Bean Books

1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

The book sound a lot of fun, Lynda. What a great recommendation!