By: Stephen Ainley
There can be little doubt that we live in an age of rapid technological advancements. The world seems smaller and more connected than ever before. In such an environment, there is an ongoing battle to gain the often fleeting interest of the people within this society. This can be a difficult task in a world which is frequently characterized by the need for instant gratification. Television, video games, social media and the Internet have become constant staples and sources of entertainment in this culture. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that mind you. As the saying goes…”it is what it is.” However, when something comes along that transports us back into an age which is characterized by different priorities and needs, it is like a breath of fresh air. That is exactly what Stephen Ainley does in his novel, The Dennis Bisskit Adventures. If you love a wholesome and heartwarming story which is saturated with humor, then this novel needs to be put on your “To Be Read” list “tout suite!”
The novel follows the life and escapades of the loveable, albeit very accident prone Dennis Bisskit. Born just after the Second World War ended, we are able to see young Dennis grow up in the 1950’s and 60’s and transform from an innocent and bungling boy, to a young man in his own right. In order to show this progression, the author puts together a series of Dennis’s significant life events, from the painful awkwardness of early school life to joining the Staffordshire Regiment and fighting in Uganda. In between the reader is treated to a number of hilarious adventures. From Dennis trying to set a new world record for running the mile (my personal favorite), to the tribulations at his first real job in a department store. The very humorous escapades clearly reveal a young boy’s unique and poignant journey into manhood.
Did I mention that this book is thoroughly funny? The various scenarios which Dennis finds himself in are truly gut splitting. However, it is not just the actual incidents which are comical. Indeed, it is a mixture of the well laid out story scenes, perfectly described setting and solid character development by the author which makes it all work. If Dennis was not such a likable, optimistic and good natured character, the humor would fall flat as a pancake. As readers we find ourselves constantly laughing with Dennis, not actually at him. The ability to pull this off is no easy feat and the author manages it masterfully.
In regards to character development, there are a number of very interesting and well developed characters in the novel. Aside from Dennis, the supporting characters such as his family, Stinky, Mrs. Ricketts and Sergeant Plunkett are developed with intricate care. They are all colorful, comical and entertaining in their own right. The reader cannot help but engage with and relate to the characters in the book. Also, they all solidly support the overall theme which is “the coming of age.” This serious theme is frequently presented in the story in a unique and comical manner.
The setting for this story takes place in a different era, over 70 years ago. Life was much different then. Having recently seen the end of World War 2, it was a society focused upon simply living and rebuilding lives. Modern day technology and luxuries were not part of this world. However, that is not to say that things were unpleasant or tedious. They were just different. Many people would say it was a more wholesome time consisting of far less distraction. Stephen Ainley aptly captures such an atmosphere in his novel. It is like we virtually travel back in time to a different age and experience these adventures with Dennis. For those of us in the mature stage of our lives, such as myself, it is a very welcome trip and is fondly embraced. Overall I would recommend this book for almost any age from Teen and up. There is something in it for everyone. Nevertheless, I would also say it holds something quite special for those readers who are a bit older.
If you are looking for a story which is extremely well written, then The Dennis Bisskit Adventures is a perfect choice. It is hilarious, poignant, and at times, a bit sad. The writing has a beautiful flow to it and ties everything together in an exceptional and descriptive manner.
5 Nostalgic Stars for this one!