19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
Today we may share an extract of this book:
Gap Years -Extract 5
In this extract, Sean is just starting his new job at a cafe, days after the latest in a series of disastrous dates set up for him by Rhiannon – the only girl he really wants a date with.
‘I’m sorry, but it is funny.’ Rhiannon sniggers as she takes two Mai-Tais from the counter. ‘You’ll see it eventually.
‘It is not funny. It turns out that Leanne is a sex blogger. A very successful one by all accounts, shared constantly by people laughing at the idiots she goes out with all over social media. I have read it before and laughed, but didn’t make the connection, there are no pictures of her and she uses a pseudonym. I am now at the top of page one, with more likes and shares than any before. She’s used a false name to protect me, thank heavens for small mercies, but it’s a small town and everyone other than me knows Leanne writes it. People must know it’s me.
It’s the grand opening day of The Red Queen’s Heads and I am busy. I’m playing two hour long sets, one this afternoon, one tonight, and working the bar in between. Maurice is paying me for the hours behind the bar, and I get an extra ten quid for playing. Not a bad deal I reckon. Rhiannon is here, and she’s brought Melody. Mel’s coming out of the wheelchair and onto crutches tomorrow, as long as the Doctors sign it off, so it can’t be much longer before she’s okay again. I notice that Alison does not quite trust either me or Rhi to look after her properly as she and Dad are sitting on the other side of the room, at a separate table. Dad looks a bit uncomfortable drinking tea from a chipped bone china cup in a mismatched saucer, but Alison looks right at home. I always thought she was a bit hipper than him. It’s been a while since I saw the two of them in the same room, I’m glad they’ve managed to get a bit of time together but their presence is not helping my nerves one bit.
I am nervous, some of these songs are completely new. I’ve written enough now to do the whole hour with no covers, and no repeats. Admittedly I still have to do the same set twice, but I’m quite proud of it. There’s a song for Rhiannon, I’m not sure if I want her to figure that out. In an ideal world I would like her to look up at me, realisation dawning through misty eyes as I reach its stormy crescendo before leaping up and kissing me passionately – then we Officer and a Gentleman our way out of here to rapturous applause. However, it is more likely she’d get that cynical look in her eyes that says ‘really?’ down her drink, hit me with her most withering, pitying look and leave. Or worse, come up and explain why we could never work.
I’ve a little more left of this bar shift, and then I’m on. I get a five minute break to get my head together, tune my guitar up, then play my heart out. It’ll be fine.
‘Hi Sean, we’ve come to see you sing.’ Oh shit. It’s Leanne, and she’s here with Charlie – both looking magazine-cover perfect.
‘Oh, hi, how are you guys?’ I say, all professionalism and politeness. This is my job, after all. They are both as intimidatingly beautiful as I remember, and I am desperately hoping that my face is not as red as it feels, there is nowhere I can run away to.
‘Great, just great. I haven’t seen Charlie in ages, and I just happen to run into him down the road.’ Leanne says, all playful smiles, like nothing that she has written an internet-breaking blog about ever happened between us. ‘I said “Hey, do you want to come to this gig?” and he’s like “what gig?” so I was like, “My friend Sean is playing in this new café bar in Mill Street today,” and he says, “Sean who?” and then I was like…’ I have stopped listening. She talks like this, all the time. Most girls round here do, that’s unfair, most girls of a certain age do, except Rhiannon. She only speaks once she’s got all the words lined up in her head. She’s got a shit filter that stops all the bollocks spilling out. I don’t mind Leanne’s constant pointless babble though, there’s something musical and calming about it, like the soporific wave you get from lying on a sofa in front of daytime TV property-antique-quiz shows.
‘Yeah, you should have said you were playing Sean,’ Charlie adds. He is also grinning inanely as if I have never left him stark-bollock naked, arse-up in the woods and run away screaming like a rabbit with the good sense to know what the headlights mean. ‘I’m just nipping out for a smoke first Lee,’ he says, before pulling a cigarette from a pack secreted in his top pocket, tipping me a knowing wink and hopping out of the door. I don’t get it. He’s a cyclist, he’s a fitness guy, why would he smoke?
‘Ok, see you over there in a bit,’ she replies, waving her hand across the room in the direction of, well all the tables, really.
I serve Leanne their drinks, all the while waiting for her to start ridiculing me. There’s a glint in her eyes that says she’s just waiting for the right cue. She doesn’t though, just thanks me and wanders off to find a table.
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Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.