5.0 out of 5.0 stars for Against The Tide
By S Riaz Amazon Vine TOP 10 REVIEWER
Jack Renouf is eighteen and lives in Jersey, as the author points out
one hundred miles from England, but only ten from France.
It is 1939 and war is encroaching on Jack's life.
Before now his greatest battle has been in the swimming pool,
where he is in training for a place in the next olympic squad.
Now, however, the real world is intruding.
In some ways, this is a typical 'coming of age' novel - Jack is beset
by hormones and has two girls competing for his affections.
One the difficult and superior Caroline, the other her fellow diving
Although all the characters involved in this novel have one eye on
the approaching war, many are still affected by previous conflicts
and wary of what is coming because of losses in the past.
Also, many of the characters have secrets which they are trying to hide.
Jack is becoming more aware of family issues, such as his Uncle 'Red' Fred,
who is disowned by his family and who seems to be attracting the attention of some
rather unpleasant men. The plot is almost too involved to explain and in a lesser authors hands could simply be confusing, rather than intricate. There are personality clashes, especially between Jack and fellow swimming
competitor Rudolph Kohler. There are boat chases, conspiracies, romance, smuggling, spying, swimming, Shakespeare and a side story which delves into the death of Lawrence of Arabia. Jack is a teenager in a time where the world will
soon abandon the healthy competition he thrives on for the violence of war, and he will have to swim against the tide to keep his faith in himself and do what he feels to be right.
The author has written a really exciting novel, with great characters, a fast moving and
believable plot and created a world which you know is changing forever as you read the pages.
5.0 out of 5 stars Against The Tide - a book to be savoured
By Mrs. C. A. Nicholls
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Having spent several years in Jersey in the 1960s and 70s, I initially ordered this for a tale set in the island I love, having seen a review in the local Jersey paper. Then getting impatient for the book to arrive in Australia, I downloaded the Kindle version. From the start this was obviously going to be a really meaty story with a wealth of diverse characters that would take time to get to know. Ten books sound just about right! With the introduction in a polo pool and the characters coming at you thick and fast, I found there was not one page that I could afford to gloss over. There is no waffle, and every page a delight as the scene is meticulously set during the build up to the biggest upheaval in the history of the island. For those who know Jersey the landmarks are recognisable and authentic; for those who don't, they are not overwhelmed with blatant 'in island' knowledge.
Jack Renouf's impulsive and late teens, risk taking behaviour makes for very fast moving action. You feel every embarrassment as he deals with his emotional turmoil with the two young girls in his life, yet at the same time being surprised at how capable, daring and brave this 18 year old can be. This journey is going to be fun.
The book is a much anticipated pleasure to read. Definitely a 5 star rating book to be savoured.
5.0 out of 5.0 stars: Organically grown & locally sourced fiction
By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE™ VOICE
'Jersey boy' JFH has for many years lived, brought up his family, and taught, near my home, on The Lizard Peninsula. `Against The Tide', a top quality soft back, thick pages, clear print, a pleasure to read, was printed and bound in Padstow. A local friend recommended this as `Harry Potter for men" - a pretty good summing up - and because I know JFH to say hello to at least, I was pleased to choose it from the Vine programme this month.
Muscular and masculine and that's not just the author, it's the writing too, we are really chucked in at the deep end in from page one. Ten fully fledged characters are thrown into the first four pages without so much as a "how's your father", or perhaps more pertinent, "Who's your father?" you can hear the teacher in John saying "Keep Up! Pay Attention!" with a threat to hurl the blackboard rubber if you don't. No such mercies as a dramatis personae; work it all out for yourself. Later on multiple big wigs, island officials who may or may not be what they seem blunder about like the Keystone cops; only firebrand Red Uncle Fred stands out and he's right off the wall.
At times the plot threatens to creak and groan under its own weight, this can't just be a first novel it has to be the start of a series, we haven't even got to the German occupation yet. If you are suffering from post Olympics depression turn to this, there are excellent set pieces that take you straight into the world of competitive swimming, water polo and diving (from a board). Never mind Quidditch; the tactics employed by Rudi the quasi Dutchman to win at water polo would make a grown man weep let alone turn off a fainter minded female.
Altogether, assured, intelligent confident writing, employing a sound knowledge of everything he is talking out - beginning with eighteen year olds; Jack is so believably drawn, he could be the son you are staring at across the table unable to make out anymore. This fit and physical youth is having his eyes opened in a big way; recent cruel histories, hardly bearable terrible stories, are being broken to him, his age giving him that wonderful bright black and white sense of conviction about what to do next. Jealousy, misunderstandings, amateur sleuthing, all set in 1939 just before things really blew up in a big way. Go to read Island Madness for the next episode is you can't wait for this chap to do it.
JFH soundtracks his tale quite beautifully and flowingly with music and the words of Shakespeare. Strains of the classics ripple, thunder and crash from various pianos, while the young, recently having put on The Merchant of Venice at school, quote fluently from the Bard, giving a depth, resonance and filmic quality to the whole book.
Wry understatement amuses through the heady stuff, cleverly entwined with Junior James Bond style exploits on land and sea. The most impressive thing for me was the geography. Any resident or fan of Jersey will be right there, breathing and seeing the familiar landmarks, harbours, fields and roads, the social history, time and place comes across as sound, sure footed and spot on.
Generous with genre this could be classified as Romance - boy/girl action from the start, although it is rather more lust than love one feels, and the breast beating is going on apace over that; Crime - well there are large amounts of industrial diamonds bobbing about and nasty men in black cars blocking narrow lanes and issuing/carrying out horrible threats. Thriller - there are certainly some very exciting scenes, chases, shooting and fighting too. It's all been thrown into the pot and left to bubble away. There's even a sub plot re T E Lawrence and his motorbike that I never quite got to grips with. Plenty of workmanlike explanation, an education even delivered with a spoonful of sugar, all go to make a tremendous read, plenty between the covers to get stuck into. Home grown, bursting with flavour, fresh and good for you, just like a wonderful Jersey potato in fact. Well Done John. Another helping, please, soon!
A Five Star Read
By Ella Medler
Against The Tide is a coming of age novel set in the months immediately preceding WW II, in Jersey. School is almost over for Jack Renouf, a very strong swimmer who has his sights set on qualifying for the next Olympic games. His focus is broken by a series of events which lead to his growing up and finally discovering who he is as a person, and what he stands for.
The plot is beautifully developed, and for those afraid of a potential history lesson, let me assure you that you will understand the action perfectly, without noticing the merest trace of preaching. There are secondary plots, too, masterfully blended into the main. This is a the-more-you-read-the-more-you-want-to-read kind of book.
J. F. Hanley’s descriptions paint a perfect picture. I’ve never visited Jersey, but I felt like I knew it well. Excellent account of water polo, swimming competitions and sailing. The characterization is very good. Jack, Caroline and Rachel sound exactly like any youths in 1939 should. The love triangle developing between them is built up so smoothly, and poor Jack is so clueless, it was heart-warming to read.
We are being introduced to a whole host of secondary characters, the most prominent being Uncle Fred, who is an undesirable member of Jack’s family. Often laughed at and never taken seriously, Red Fred’s words are the catalyst Jack needs in order to start behaving like an adult.
This is a work of fiction, but it could easily have been a slice out of any young man’s life. Despite the ambitious diamond deal plot, which Jack and his friends managed to foil, it seems real. There is no flaw in the logic, no hiccup in the storyline, the dialogue flows naturally and is peppered with French words and Shakespeare references – a very easy to read book.
What really did make it a lovely experience for me was the fine sense of humour the author managed to sneak even within the more tense, action-packed scenes. I loved that. Perhaps it takes being British to get some of it, but even if you’re not, you will enjoy it.
Without doubt, Against The Tide is one of the best-written books I’ve read this year. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It gets five shiny gold stars from me.
5 out of 5 stars a multifaceted page-turner
By W. Kent Sligh - Los Angeles - Amazon review
Format - Amazon Kindle
'This book is a rich soufflé of young love, war, sport, greed and friendship. On the outside
it's a thriller with races, boat-chases, shootings, spies, and a roller-coaster-ride ending.
On the inside it's a touching coming-of-age story that has resonated with me days after
finishing this book. Wow. Made me remember what it was like to be young in the summer
and made me want to buy a motorcycle. What an ending! Can't say enough good things.'
5 out of 5 stars Thrilling read!
By Mrs Sarah Sharpe - Amazon review
Format - paperback
From the very first words written - this book had me gripped
(although thankfully not in the same sort of grip as that suffered by the main
character Jack!!)I love the development of the characters - particularly for our
protagonist who gets caught in a love triangle with two fantastically strong
yet beguiling young women (I'm rooting for Rachel!!)... this book has got it all
- love, passion, history, spies, smuggling, conspiracies, all told amidst the
backdrop of the beautiful island of Jersey. I found the verbal sparring
between Jack and his best friend very entertaining - the references to
Shakespeare had me intrigued to the point of ordering my own copy of
The Merchant of Venice!! It's been a while since A-level English so it was a
pleasure to return to 'The Bard'! Following the 2012 Olympic diving with interest this summer
(Tom Daley anyone??!!) I thoroughly enjoyed the diving scenes played out by the aforementioned women - factual but exhilarating to read, and whilst on the subject of exhilarating those last few chapters were thrillingly intense!! Can't recommend this book highly enough!!
Absorbing and Breath-Taking - Heartily Recommended
By Arthur Crandon - Hong Kong
The moment you open the book you are hooked. The story is fast paced from the start, with Jack’s immediate struggle in the pool demanding the reader’s attention and empathy. From then on the book develops into a complex and interweaved plot with many intriguing and exciting sub plots. There is depth, but also fast paced action, which John Hanley has combined well.
The looming Second World War provides a background tension throughout the novel and the secrets and personality of some characters makes the book difficult to put down. Jack’s struggle with relationship and family issues make fascinating reading, and the development of all the characters is very believable. The competition between Caroline and Rachel for Jack’s attention is particularly entertaining as is his relationship with Rudolph, his swimming opponent. Family and other relationships are volatile, often violent and provide many interesting twists and turns, adding to the tension of the main plot.
Altogether an absorbing and breath-taking read. Thoroughly and heartily recommended - an excellent Christmas present.
‘Excellent — a book difficult to put down. I cannot wait to read the next one to find out what happens to
Jack Rachel and Caroline and the Baddies!!! The local detail and knowledge of boats swimming and
water polo could not be faulted Please hurry up and get the next one in print!!!’
- Dr Ian Wort
Excellent debut novel. Intriguing thriller set against the backdrop of summer in Jersey, in the lead up to WWII. Will look forward to hearing from Jack again.
- Dr Rodd Smith
A very good read. I look forward to future books
- Mike Godfrey
Reviewers on: “YouWriteOn”
•The action, dialogue, scene-building, and plot development all blend together textually effortlessly, making this a real easy-on-the-reader experience.
•Very impressive – original and compelling
•Wow what an opening! You captured me right off.