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Set in the late 1970s, Letters to Strabo is the fictional autobiography of Adam Finnegan Black, or 'Finn', an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life. His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes; Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek 'father of geography', Strabo. When Finn was young, his father Jerry went missing in a scuba diving accident in 1960's Alexandria. After graduating from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, Finn sets out to fulfil a promise made to his mother at her death: Finn, promise me one day you'll find out what really happened to your father. Along the way, he's inspired through a series of adventures by the landscapes and people he meets travelling round the Mediterranean, but especially by the Letters to Strabo, written by Eve, his long-distance pen pal whom he dreams, one day, will become his wife...Through these letters, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about how Eve is, in turn, struggling with an emotional trauma that she won't fully reveal. This is both a love story and coming-of-age tale, painted on the canvas of the radiant literary, cultural and physical geography of the Mediterranean. It is funny and provocative as Finn recounts, with disarming honesty, the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy, but ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy.
A wonderful balance of sentimentality, reflection and discovery, Letters To Strabo might well be Smith's best release to date. An insightful and beautifully penned coming of age novel, he creates a rare sense immediacy as he writes, his characters imbued with a certain vibrancy that elevates them beyond their time and place as he brings them vividly to life. It’s one of those reads that can’t be reduced to simplistic genre labels without being disingenuous with his prose creating a sense of authenticity that is sadly too rare in contemporary literature novels. It is this unique quality of Smith’s writing that makes it a difficult book to put down. He respects the idiosyncrasies of his characters rather than exaggerating them and this endows his narrative with the emotional resonance that makes Eve’s letters to Finn so poignant. Set against the cultural and physical geography of the Mediterranean Smith’s descriptive ability paints scenes that are compelling and immersive, pulling readers into the storyline as if they were experiencing the reality themselves.
Combining the best in coming of age novels and contemporary romance, Letters To Strabo really is an eloquent and persuasive telling that pulses with poetic flair. Confirming Smiths place as a new and exciting voice in Contemporary Literature it is recommended without hesitation.
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David Smith was born in Warwickshire in 1961. He studied Economics at Cambridge and has worked in industry for over 30 years, including periods in Switzerland, the USA and Turkey. He was one of the main architects of the transformation of Jaguar Land Rover and is presently a Chief Financial Officer for a listed company. He lives in West Sussex with his wife and three children.