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Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy Book 1) by…
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Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy Book 1) (2014)

by Michael Gallagher

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Moonstone is one of my favourite books and I’ve read it many times, so I was a bit wary of a sequel not written by Wilkie Collins. I needn’t have worried as this story is very well written and fits in very well with Collins’ world. It goes off at a tangent to the original story rather than being a sequel and there are plenty of new characters with the originals being almost bit-part players. I was a bit worried by the glossary at the beginning – never a good sign! – but I found the story, and the language, easy to follow. If there are more to come I shall be very pleased to read them. ( )
  CDVicarage | May 15, 2017 |
Sometimes you see a book and just know you’re going to love it.

That’s how I felt when I spotted ‘Gooseberry’ by Michael Gallagher on Librarything. The fact that I had yet to read either Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Moonstone’, which is the inspiration and touchstone for Gallagher’s novel, or anything previously written by Gallagher himself, was deemed irrelevant and swept aside. I had thoroughly enjoyed Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Woman in White’ and I am rather partial to a good detective story, so what could possibly go wrong?

Presumably Librarything’s secret algorithms felt the same way since they kindly gave me a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

-- What’s it about? --

In 1852, three years after the events depicted in ‘The Moonstone’, an odd event befalls Mrs Rachel Blake and her aunt. Out in town one day, a gang of street children surround them and frighten them badly. When they reach the safety of their home, they realise that, rather than robbing them, the children appear to have gifted them a small photograph of a young Indian boy.

Perplexed, they turn to their lawyer, Mr Bruff, to solve the mystery. He, in turn, involves the eponymous ‘Gooseberry’, a young clerk with a knack for detection. The novel follows Gooseberry’s first person perspective as he investigates what gradually transpires to be a criminal attempt to steal a precious diamond. In the process, the reader is given a different perspective on several characters who originally featured in Collins’ novel.

-- What’s it like? --

An absolute treat for fans of Collins’ novel and a successful novel in its own right.

It does begin slightly unpromisingly, to my mind. There’s a glossary of street slang, which always suggests to me that I’m going to become sufficiently lost to require a translation. (After all, if the words were comprehensible from their context, which arguably they should be in a decently written story, why would anyone bother including a glossary?)

However, once I moved past this and Gooseberry’s narrative began I was hooked. Events develop intriguingly, characters are well fleshed-out and there’re plenty of humorous touches.

-- How does it relate to the original? --

Very neatly. Characters are consistent in background, attitude and, well, character, so readers will be unsurprised to find the former Miss Rachel instructing Mr Frank, or Gabriel Betteredge quoting Robinson Crusoe. Little links to the original text (such as Mrs Merridew’s dislike of explosions) make this a pleasure to read as a follow-up, but Gallagher’s choice of narrator allows him to adopt a slightly different viewpoint.

Where Collins was content to poke fun at some of his lower class characters for their idiosyncrasies, Gallagher uses Gooseberry to reveal the naïveté and selfishness of the aristocracy. This is done in a light hearted but very revealing manner, as when Gooseberry is overlooked once again by the gentleman of the house and reflects that: “either Mr Blake suffered from the most rotten eyesight, or he’d been trained from birth not to notice his lessers.” I particularly enjoyed Mr Bruff’s relationship with Gooseberry; Gooseberry looks on his superior’s naivety fondly and takes care not to shock him.

There was plenty of sly humour in the original, but from this new perspective Mr and Mrs Blake lack street smarts and appear slightly silly when refusing to believe Gooseberry was once a thief, (and a very skilful one at that,) then again for not realising that one particularly colourful character, ‘Big Bertha’, is actually a man. I enjoyed this new perspective and feel it helps to give an otherwise very Victorian novel a thoroughly modern feel.

Although he avoids the multiple narrators used by Collins, Gallagher retains the sense of documentary inherent in the original by having characters report events they have witnessed to others. Fortunately Gooseberry is usually central to proceedings so there are still plenty of dramatic moments.

-- Final thoughts --

This is a very modern book – it was originally serialised on Goodreads as Gallagher was writing it prior to being edited for publication as a whole – and a very Victorian one: serialisation was, of course, how popular writers including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins originally published their novels.

Gallagher creates a good sense of place and time without seeming to bury readers under a mountain of obvious research. Gooseberry refers frequently to London’s changing geography and recent history: he wonders what happened to the panes of glass from the Great Exhibition, comments on the route the drovers take to market and on where the international train station will be built, and visits the newly-built Thames tunnel.

I did read ‘The Moonstone’ prior to reading ‘Gooseberry’ and my knowledge of the original events / characters certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the latter book, but if you aren’t familiar with the original or if your memory’s just a little rusty on the details, it’s entirely possible and still enjoyable to read this as a standalone novel.

That said, if you do enjoy it, there are rumours of a sequel focusing on the same central characters (Gallagher’s, not Collins’) but investigating a different case.

Highly recommended for fans of Victorian fiction, detective fiction, and, of course, that wonderful hybrid, Victorian detective fiction. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Apr 23, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Sometimes you see a book and just know you're going to love it.

That's how I felt when I spotted 'Gooseberry' by Michael Gallagher on Librarything. The fact that I had yet to read either Wilkie Collins' 'The Moonstone', which is the inspiration and touchstone for Gallagher's novel, or anything previously written by Gallagher himself, was deemed irrelevant and swept aside. I had thoroughly enjoyed Wilkie Collins' 'The Woman in White' and I am rather partial to a good detective story, so what could possibly go wrong?

Presumably Librarything's secret algorithms felt the same way since they kindly gave me a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

What's it about?

In 1852, three years after the events depicted in 'The Moonstone', an odd event befalls Mrs Rachel Blake and her mother. Out in town one day, a gang of street children surround them and frighten them badly. When they reach the safety of their home, they realise that, rather than robbing them, the children appear to have gifted them a small photograph of a young Indian boy.

Perplexed, they turn to their lawyer, Mr Bruff, to solve the mystery. He, in turn, involves the eponymous 'Gooseberry', a young clerk with a knack for detection. The novel follows Gooseberry's first person perspective as he investigates what gradually transpires to be a criminal attempt to steal a precious diamond. In the process, the reader is given a different perspective on several characters who originally featured in Collins' novel.

What's it like?

An absolute treat for fans of Collins' novel and a successful novel in its own right.

It does begin slightly unpromisingly, to my mind. There's a glossary of street slang, which always suggests to me that I'm going to become sufficiently lost to require a translation. (After all, if the words were comprehensible from their context, which arguably they should be in a decently written story, why would anyone bother including a glossary?)

However, once I moved past this and Gooseberry's narrative began I was hooked. Events develop intriguingly, characters are well fleshed-out and there're plenty of humorous touches.

How does it relate to the original?

Very neatly. Characters are consistent in background, attitude and, well, character, so readers will be unsurprised to find the former Miss Rachel instructing Mr Frank, or Gabriel Betteredge quoting Robinson Crusoe. Little links to the original text (such as Mrs Merridew's dislike of explosions) make this a pleasure to read as a follow-up, but Gallagher's choice of narrator allows him to adopt a slightly different viewpoint.

Where Collins was content to poke fun at some of his lower class characters for their idiosyncrasies, Gallagher uses Gooseberry to reveal the naïveté and selfishness of the aristocracy. This is done in a light hearted but very revealing manner, as when Gooseberry is overlooked once again by the gentleman of the house and reflects that: "either Mr Blake suffered from the most rotten eyesight, or he'd been trained from birth not to notice his lessers." I particularly enjoyed Mr Bruff's relationship with Gooseberry; Gooseberry looks on his superior's naivety fondly and takes care not to shock him.

There was plenty of sly humour in the original, but from this new perspective Mr and Mrs Blake lack street smarts and appear slightly silly when refusing to believe Gooseberry was once a thief, (and a very skilful one at that,) then again for not realising that one particularly colourful character, 'Big Bertha', is actually a man. I enjoyed this new perspective and feel it helps to give an otherwise very Victorian novel a thoroughly modern feel.

Although he avoids the multiple narrators used by Collins, Gallagher retains the sense of documentary inherent in the original by having characters report events they have witnessed to others. Fortunately Gooseberry is usually central to proceedings to there are still plenty of dramatic moments.

Final thoughts

This is a very modern book - it was originally serialised on Goodreads as Gallagher was writing it prior to being edited for publication as a whole - and a very Victorian one: serialisation was, of course, how popular writers including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins originally published their novels.

Gallagher creates a good sense of place and time without seeming to bury readers under a mountain of obvious research. Gooseberry refers frequently to London's changing geography and recent history: he wonders what happened to the panes of glass from the Great Exhibition, comments on the route the drovers take to market and on where the international train station will be built, and visits the newly-built Thames tunnel.

I did read 'The Moonstone' prior to reading 'Gooseberry' and my knowledge of the original events / characters certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the latter book, but if you aren't familiar with the original or if your memory's just a little rusty on the details, it is entirely possible and still enjoyable to read this as a standalone novel.

That said, if you do enjoy it, there are rumours of a sequel focusing on the same central characters (Gallagher’s, not Collins’) but investigating a different case.

Highly recommended for fans of Victorian fiction, detective fiction, and, of course, that wonderful hybrid, Victorian detective fiction. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Apr 8, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have to admit, I put off reading this book because I found the cover so amateurish. I know how the saying goes, but experience has taught me that an amateur cover usually contains an amateurish novel.

This book would be one of the exceptions to that rule. The writing is crisp, period appropriate and very readable. It successfully echoes the style of the Moonstone without slavishly aping it. After reading so many poorly researched Victorian novels recently, it's a welcome change to come across an author who knows the era so well.

Octavius is pretty well rounded, and an entertaining narrator, but the mystery plot meandered a bit towards the end, and the Moonstone characters felt underdeveloped compared with the original ones (it felt a little like they were being used as a shortcut compared with creating new ones).

(I did love the inclusion of recipes at the end, though!) ( )
  MinaKelly | Jan 7, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this ebook through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers and I'm so glad because I absolutely loved it! The characters, derived from Wilkie Collins classic The Moonstone, really came to life for me, as did the Victorian Era during which the book is set. Octavius Guy, aka Gooseberry, is an especially interesting character. Taken under the wing of a wealthy and successful lawyer, Gooseberry proves his worth with his intelligence and intuitive detecting skills. Having been a successful pickpocket and member of London's underworld of crime prior to his rehabilitation at the hands of Mr. Bruff, Gooseberry is able to go places and talk to people in his former profession, learning things that his employer cannot, and using his knowledge of how criminals work and his past experience to his advantage.

The case that Gooseberry and his employer become involved in is intriguing from the start. After being accosted by a group of children, usually a tactic to fluster and distract enabling one of the gang to steal something, an elderly woman finds that instead of something missing, she has acquired an unusual photo. Investigating the matter throws Gooseberry into a complex case involving a legendary diamond, a deposed Marajaha and a twisting plot of kidnapping, murder, romance and deception. Wanting to find out what happens next and how Octavius connects the clues he discovers kept me reading well into the night.

The details and research Michael Gallagher has done to prepare for this book really shines through. I loved the characters (especially Bertha), and details about things like the Thames Tunnel, and the differences between the social classes of the time. Very well written and I am really looking forward to reading more books about Gooseberry! ( )
  LongDogMom | Jan 4, 2015 |
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To Janet Elaine Jewel Leary
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George and George, the other two office boys at Mr. Bruff’s law firm, sat snoring beside me on the bench, the victims of over-indulging on a plate of chops for their dinner.
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Book description
1852. With the business of the Moonstone diamond finally laid to rest, Mr. Franklin Blake and his wife Rachel are now happily married, living in London, and blessed with a healthy baby daughter named Julia. Mr. Blake has taken his late father’s seat in Parliament, and his party’s fortunes are on the rise—in fact they are about to overthrow the coalition government of the day.
But then the inexplicable occurs. Miss Rachel and her elderly aunt are attacked in the street by a gang of feral children, whose only purpose, it seems, is to plant a photographic portrait of a young, rich Indian lad in the old lady’s handbag.
Enter the Blakes’ lawyer’s office boy, Octavius Guy—better known as Gooseberry—who once helped the family bring the mystery of the Moonstone to a close. Join Gooseberry, the fourteen-year-old boy detective, as he and his ragtag bunch of friends descend into London’s Victorian demi-monde and underworld to ferret out the truth, while spending as much of his employer’s money as they can along the way!
Based on characters from Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. First published in 2014 as a weekly serialization on Goodreads.
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