When government cuts threaten isolated Stickle Island, locals get creative to preserve their way of life.
A community of longtime residents and “blowins” from the mainland living on a small, underdeveloped English Channel island find themselves in dire straits when Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government cuts funds for the ferry that connects them to mainland England. But after volatile aging hippie DC and innocent young farmhand Si Newman discover bales of marijuana washed up on the shore after a storm, DC’s teenage daughter, Petal, realizes that the island could be saved after all. Though hardly a veteran socialist, Petal suggests forming a co-op to sell the drugs to save the ferry—and Stickle. Things get complicated when Carter and Simp, two hardened drug dealers, show up from the mainland looking for their waylaid product and find themselves bargaining with an unruffled DC to reclaim their haul. When Carter's daughter, Amber, arrives to try to find out where DC is hiding the grass, she gets caught up with Dick Stick, Petal’s erstwhile boyfriend, driving Petal into Si’s eager arms. Soon the island is embroiled not only in a mammoth drug deal, but also the melodrama of teenage romance. This debut novel from Orchard, a 67-year-old London-based carpenter, shows both promise and clear signs of a first-time author testing his abilities: the plot and characters remain thin and underdeveloped, and hints of sharp social commentary and small-town satire never fully materialize. The conceit of remote islanders using marijuana to save their home from government cuts is potentially ingenious, but the government’s presence quickly fades from the novel, leaving in its wake the novel’s less-than-compelling romantic entanglements and larger-than-life mobsters.
An English social comedy that begins with promise but fails to develop into a fully satisfying novel.