Title: Nathaniel’s Got the Blues
Author: David Heaney
Published by: Independently Published
Publication date: 17th Sept 2020
Genre: General Fiction
In the winter of his life, Nathaniel, a fruit rat, is bored, angry and depressed. Even his longsuffering wife, Birgit is becoming impatient with his litany of complaints and ailments. Nathaniel has grown increasingly self-focused possessing little interest in his gray-hued world. Sometimes he wistfully recalls his adventures as a young rat in search of life’s meaning. But then again, he thinks that what seemed profound then, now feels banal and mundane…
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I was given a copy of Nathaniel’s got the Blues by author David L. Heaney, organised by the Twitter page Booktasters. I am grateful for the organisation and for the chance to read something a bit different to my usual choices.
Nathaniel’s Got the Blues, follows the story of a rat in his elder years, starting off grumbling and grousing about how day to day life is getting more and more difficult for him to bare. Urged out of the house by his enduring and loving wife he meets his old friend the possum Mr. Leach, who imparts some world-changing advice.
Although Nathaniel is a character in his more senior years, there is an easy sense of attachment to him. He has clearly lost a sense of himself and is near-crying out to rediscover what he feels is missing in his life. There is a quiet-charm to the central character that emanates throughout the whole novel; his discoveries feel very real and the problems that he comes across require a guiding hand that isn’t his own; hence the importance of his friend, Mr Leach.
While acting on the vital advice ‘Engage and Extract,’ Nathaniel comes across a colony of mice and is enraptured by them and their actions. A bond of friendship is formed and, as the plot develops, tested. There is a parable-like quality to the words written in Nathaniel’s Got the Blues and as Nathaniel is imparted with wisdom by Mr Leach, as the reader is by the words of the story. Although suggested for younger audiences, there is something to take from this story by readers of all ages. The story and its characters leave a lasting impression that gives the reader something to continue to think about in the weeks to come. It’s inspiring to those who would be willing to listen to the lesson.
The story of Nathaniel’s got the Blues reminded me of other anthropomorphised works such as Watership Down and The Secret of Nihm. I recall these stories also have both moralities stemming from tragedy, too. These were also some of my favourite tales growing up as a child. The ability to use animal characters to weave stories often works well for younger audiences who can connect to these animals in a much easier fashion; therefore helping the reader to grasp the vital message behind the story. However, these stories all have their darker moments and Nathaniel’s Got the Blues is no exception.
For those that don’t want to engage with the book at a deeper level, Nathaniel’s Got the Blues is a heart-warming and heart-breaking tale. There are scenes of tragedy that are difficult to bear but that are so well written that I could feel my throat constricting with grief – I’m not sure if this was just a ‘me’ thing and how well some younger audiences would cope with it.
What I truly found fascinating about the central character, Nathaniel and his wife, Birgit was the dialogue between them. These are two characters that have spent the vast majority of their life together, know each other intimately and have long endured aspects that have developed over time. There is a very ‘human’ quality to them. Their discussions and arguments feel very natural for a mature couple; they can say things to one another that will challenge their ways of thinking without falling out over it. I found them to be a very wholesome couple that I enjoyed reading the story of.
While the story has a high focus on Nathaniel and the journey that he goes through he is accompanied by Wendel, the mouse that he befriends. Although only young, there is a positive strength to Wendel that I feel the younger readers of this book might find it easier to connect with. He brings a freshness to the story in perspective and elevates the plot onto a new arch; keeping the pace of the story flowing – Wendel also plays a major part in the life lessons that Nathaniels Got the Blues imparts.
There is a magical turning point in the ‘Blues’ that Nathaniel has and I found this an unexpected turn that brought a sincere smile to my face. Accompanying the rich-descriptions and dialogue is some highly-entertaining prose. Songs, that Nathaniel sings to himself that help to sum up his experiences. Giving the reader a quick recap of what has just happened without irksome repetition, this was a bold, but a perfect choice. Reiterating key points in the plot’s message without coming across as preaching.
Having touched so entirely on this book having life lessons to teach the reader, what did I end up taking away from it? I took a lesson to open myself up to the experiences that life can offer. It sound so simple to put it plainly, but I don’t want to risk putting a potential reader off the book by speaking too directly about my take home.
There is a morality to Nathaniel’s Got the Blues that has lessons to impart to both younger and older readers. With charming, captivating anthropomorphic characters that impart wisdom in an entertaining manner. A truly thought-provoking story that dips into some truly dark places.