Snowed in at The Practice by Penny Parkes – a novel of a contemporary British small town
Snow in a small town and a community with plenty going on; this is a book with so much to enjoy for those who like stories of people, families and community. Life in Larkford can be wonderful as people can be supportive and helpful, knowing something of the situations people are in. However, this knowledge,the gossip and sometimes even criticism that some suffer from can make it feel a very small place.
The action of this book is largely centred around The Doctors’ Practice and the people who work there. Holly and her family are shown to be adjusting as her maternity leave comes to an end, but more significantly she must work out how being in paid employment once more will have an impact on her self confidence and way of working as a doctor. The people around her have their problems, some of which will emerge throughout this well paced book which is a substantial and significant tale of contemporary life. While there are some surprises, other situations arise as a result of things that occurred before the beginning of this particular book as well as during the narrative. This book follows others which introduce many of the characters as well as the setting, but it is very readable as a standalone book, which is how I read it. I would like to read the earlier books is this series, as I have really enjoyed the opportunity to read and review this novel.
The book opens with Holly, her husband Taffy and friend Elsie dealing with two sets of twins, the oldest, Ben and Tom off to school, the younger, Olivia and Lottie, being the reason for Holly’s maternity leave, shortly due to end. Holly’s quick thinking is called upon for various medical emergencies and informal difficulties in the town. Connor is a musician who has his own battles to fight, as he and others in the town find some solace in animals. Arguments erupt in the community, but there are also signs of hope and new initiatives which will make a difference. Alice is a doctor facing various pressures, as she concerns herself with Tilly, a younger doctor with a reputation. High and low points are experienced by many characters in echoes of real life cleverly depicted, and some images are moving.
This is a vivid and realistic portrayal of modern life in all the contradictions and revelations of contemporary life. I thought that the characters were frequently brilliantly captured, and I found many very convincing. One or two themes launched in previous books were confusing, but were resolved and explained as the book progressed. Parkes is a skilful and experienced writer and has one of her characters described situations and people in Larkford as needing to be shown as “Venn Diagrams” rather than separate blocks, as characters’ and households’ stories intersect and overlap. There are some deeply serious themes in this book, and I must confess to being concerned that there would be lots of medical emergencies, but the cases mentioned are minimal and not overly detailed or disconcerted. I would thoroughly recommend this as a book for anyone who enjoys contemporary community stories with natural humour, excellent dialogue and sophisticated storylines, and I am going to be tracking down the other Larkford novels as soon as possible.