A most remarkable series of linked stories, encompassing a young working-class Englishman's coming of age, written with great humour and pathos.
This is Royston Tester's first book, but he has already been nominated for a slew of awards, been published widely (and internationally, in both journals and the Lambda-prize finalist anthology The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Essays on Queer Sexuality and Desire), and charmed the CanLit establishment. His writing is very English, and in a spectacular way; his language is both elegant and colloquial, and always riveting.
'Over the 13 linked stories comprising this debut collection from Birmingham, England-born, Toronto resident Royston Tester, our protagonist, Enoch, is clubbed with one revelation after another: his father's illiteracy, his own nascent and tumultuous sexuality, his long-kept-secret adoption. That he maintains his sharp wit and gentle self-deprecatory sense of humour throughout might seem an almost superhuman feat, yet it comes off as entirely natural rendered in Tester's quippy, idiomatic prose. The worlds of these stories refuse to sag under the weight of hardship. Instead, Tester's evident affection for his subject acts as a buoy, imparting even the grimmest scenes with a beguiling lightness.'
'By the above descriptions, Summat Else may begin to sound like a sordid, sensational series of stories about pain and suffering -- a too-young mother in a cold world, a juvenile delinquent boy, and troubled, rough, gay sex. It is this and more, thanks to Tester's knife-edged imagination, and his great skill, which craft humanity and humour in the grimmest of situations. Tester weaves politics, morality, pain, and humour into a complex and moving book. His narrative prose -- syntax, dialogue, and phrasing -- is quirky, fresh, surprising, idiomatic, and inventive. Listening to the characters talk is engaging, entertaining, and often gripping. Tester's skill with character and situation, whether in the dark or in the light, whether occupying the high ground or the gutter, compels the reader to engage; Tester evokes our emotions -- apprehension, empathy, and more. Royston Tester makes us care. Read him.'
'If you're an average Canadian reader, it might be a couple of weeks from the time you put down Summat Else before you fully appreciate its beauty.'
'Tester has written Summat Else with a starkness that allows the reader to fully understand the depths of Enoch Jones and his pain. The characters in Enoch's life are as real to the reader as they are to him. And one wonders, just how does life turn out for Enoch Jones.'
'In these connected stories, narrator Enoch Jones guides the reader through his coming-of-age with a cockeyed charm that makes both the English Black Country and the bloodthirsty Barcelona of Franco's final days feel as real as one's own kitchen. With a novella's momentum, each story plunges us headlong into the next hair-raising stage of Enoch's life -- Evensong pickpocket, reform school punching-bag, apprentice rent-boy -- culminating in an epistolary tale with a cliffhanger ending that, somehow, completely satisfies. Tester's structural craftsmanship alone is dizzying, but it is Enoch's strength of character in the face of fascist gunfire, S & M dog collars and a pederast driving instructor, among other things, that ultimately makes this collection so winning. (And the paper it's printed on is really nice.)'