REVIEW: L J Boden’s ‘By a Thread’

L J Boden’s ‘By a Thread’ is a rollercoaster tale of the life of a young man and his group friends in early 1990s’ Wirral.

Seemingly often drawing on the experiences of the author, we join our protagonist, Jonno, on his treacherous travels through early adulthood.

During the course of the book, Jonno is trying his damnedest to cope with peer pressure, girls, drugs, crime, and the early 90s’ clubbing scene. Often, these factors get the better of him, often by a long chalk.

But Jonno’s life isn’t without those little glimmers of hope that appear in all our lives like solitary stars in the night sky. And, like those stars, his hopes are often clouded over by events that are sometimes unavoidable, sometimes wholly avoidable and self-inflicted, and sometimes in the hands of cruel gods.

It isn’t all grim in Jonno’s perilous life. His friends are true friends, even if occasionally he is pressured into things that he would have otherwise taken great strides to avoid.

This book is a page-turner; it’s one of those that you say to yourself, “Just one more chapter and then the bedside lamp goes off!” and then find yourself saying the same an hour later.

It is well written and its pace is perfect for the subject matter, ebbing and flowing reflecting Jonno’s ups and downs. Occasionally, it drifts off to a little vignette (eg, the building site incident) that seems to add nothing to the narrative or character development, but maybe adds to your internal perception of the times in which it is set.

The author, Wirral man L J Boden, tells me that this could be any 90s town anywhere in the UK. And it could. But there are episodes in the book that either by description or not so subtle name-changes are instantly recognisable as Birkenhead – Who fancies a night on the town at Ambience?

Back to Jonno and on finishing the book it was hard to say what I felt of his life. Would I like Jonno? Maybe … in small doses. His life is just so complex that I can’t help thinking he would often be too much trouble. At other times, he’d be your bestest ever mate. Whichever, he would always have your back.

So, what do I feel towards Jonno?

Pity. Maybe. Yes, I think It’s pity you feel. He’s a hard man, who’s having a hard life and despite his tough exterior, his heart and mind can be broken just like mine and yours.

If you grew up in Birkenhead anytime from the 1960s to the early 2000s, there will be a lot here that you can relate to. If you didn’t, it’s an intimate insight into the pitfalls of early adulthood in urban Britain that will keep you hanging on every word.

In essence, despite readers having never experienced most of the episodes of Jonno’s life, it is a book about all of us, told through Jonno’s early adulthood.

We all find our own ways of coping.

And, this is Jonno’s way.

‘By a Thread’ by L J Boden is available in paperback (£5.99) and Kindle (£3.99) from Amazon

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