A companion book to Saving Francesca the reader finds themselves reunited with some familiar faces and a few new ones in the Piper’s Son. Tom is grieving his uncle who died in an explosion on the London Tube. He dropped out of uni, walked away from his music and turned his back on his friends, including the one he can’t forget, he one who can’t stand him after the “one and a half night stand”. Living with his single, pregnant aunt he tries to piece back his life together while trying to accept his alcoholic father back into his life.
This novel is like a walk down memory lane, or as a good friend put like “putting on a pair of comfy old pants”. We are welcomed back into the lives of Tom, Francesa, Justine and the gang. What is interesting is seeing where they all are five years down the track. Is it where you thought they would be? This answer will be different for everyone but it is fascinating nonetheless. With the switch and focus in perspective on Tom you see the old characters in a new light but with plenty of references back to the familiar old days that will have the reader grinning along at all the in-jokes. For all you die-hard Marchetta fans there is a easter egg hidden within the novel. One I congratulated myself on picking up with a subtle reference until the following pages made it a lot clearer. All I will say is when you find it, it will make a little too much sense and leave you feeling a little lighter.
Despite all my references to the past this is a complete stand alone novel that anyone can read and enjoy. I myself found it quite difficult to get into initially because of my previous ideas about the characters and didn’t really settle into it until about halfway through. I did find myself falling back in love with these characters who have grown and matured in so many ways. I also fell in love with some of the newer characters, Tom’s family in particular. His aunt Georgie was a gorgeous character to follow through her highs and lows of pregnancy as a single woman with a complex history. Ned was another highlight, the poetic chef who hates rhyming.
This novel deals with themes of grief that manifest in different ways. We watch how Tom and the rest of his family move through the the different stages of accepting the death of a family member. A death that occurred on the other side of the world. A death that left not even a body to bury. Marchetta understands the complexities of family relationships strained by years of smaller tensions, stretched in these circumstances.
Once again I found myself caught up in Marchetta’s words and her characters. There is something about her writing that gets under my skin and I find myself enjoying her novels every single time. I do recommend the Piper’s Son, particularly if you are aquatinted with her earlier YA novels but also a snapshot of grief and how it can consume you. How it can set fire to the pages of your life while you watch it turn to smoke. This is an unflinching, yet heartwarming novel with the buoyancy of youth. I give the Piper’s Son three of Tom’s guitars.