A Garden of Delights

Book Review Monday: Knees Up, Mother Earth

Posted on: April 10, 2012

Continuing on a regular feature here at the Garden of Delights, welcome to Book Review Monday which alternates with Your Inspirations twice a month.  Last time Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War was the feature piece.  Today, let’s enjoy something a bit lighter.

Knees Up, Mother Earth by Robert Rankin

Knees Up Mother Earth

If you’re like me, living across The Pond, you may have heard news stories about European “football” (rugby) teams and how violent and reactionary their fans can get.  And if you’re like me (or even if you actually enjoy sports), you have to wonder what all the fuss is about.

I mean, it isn’t as if seeing your favorite team lose a game once in a while is the end of the world!

Or is it?

Enter the Brentford United FA (Football Association) whose members have been contracted to win every single game of their season and achieve the coveted FA Cup, lest their football field be sold off to a land developer.  Since the team’s plummeting streak has held solid since the 1920’s, there seems to be little chance of saving their beloved club.   But the stakes end up being far more dire.  And even as the team acquires a new captain empowered to propel them to victory, member begin falling by the wayside, only to be replaced with members of a traveling circus.  Still, Brentford United must win, because the alternative is the end of the world.

Knees Up, Mother Earth came to my home by accident almost two years ago.  And once I realized what I’d bought, Borders refused returns on anything because they were closing all their brick & motor stores.  So I shoved it into a pile of ‘not dealing with this now’ books and magazines that monopolize the little bookshelf in our bedroom.  And there it sat, gathering dust while I worked through other books in my list.  Finally this January, I picked it up for my (failed) attempt at the Fifty/Fifty/Me challenge (I still haven’t watched another movie since V for Vendetta).  Oh, and yes, I’ve sat on writing this review for nearly two months now.

So let me first say that my initial reaction to this book was just above ‘negative’.  I’d perhaps heard Rankin’s name somewhere on a random webpage or in conversation somewhere, but it had meant nothing.  And the cover art, as you can see (although my copy has a different cover), didn’t give a real sense of its fantasy genre.  Indeed,  neither the blurb on the back nor the Wikipedia  description of the storyline nor even most of the characters recommended this book to me.  It was about sports (rugby no less, which I only know a pittance about) and hanging out in taverns, boozing…  Heck, the heroes are the town drunks!

I had trouble putting the book down.  I think I could have married Old Pete, wonderful curmudgeon that he was.

Oh, there were lulls,  and it wasn’t really a matter of the super suspenseful  story arc that held me….  Knees Up made me laugh.  I’m sure I missed over a hundred of the little side jokes Rankin included simply because I wasn’t familiar with his “world”, but that didn’t matter.  It is hilarious.  The writing was wonderful too.  Through Rankin’s writing, each character, each place in the story came alive and breathed with believability.  The details not only popped, but were beautifully written (Rankin KNOWS his stuff with words).  As frustrated as the characters made me with their total …humanity!  I couldn’t “hate them”; in fact, I began rooting for them right from the beginning.  I even cried a bit when The Campbell died (though he wanted to, so I must respect that).

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

I would happily read another book by Robert Rankin–particularly  when it’s noted that most do not consider Knees Up, Mother Earth to be one of his best works.  Perhaps next time, I’ll pick up a copy of  The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.  Seems fitting for just after Easter.

And just as a side note: Rankin based his book (and according to the Wiki most of his others) in  Brentford, UK (and on their very real football team, the Brentford F.C.)  Looking over online details make Brentford out as a very interesting place too, though nowhere as intimate as Rankin makes it in his book.  I do get the phenomena from my brief time in the UK.  There is a very different feel to towns in the UK to town in the US., and I don’t mean this in criticism to either place.  But I remember sensing much more intimacy and awareness of community in most places in the UK, even larger “towns” which could be easily compared to small cities in the U.S..  (my closest example would be obviously Solihul since that’s where we stayed during our time in England.  Located just south eat of Birmingham, Solihul would easily be comparable to a small city size and population-wise here, but it felt more like a hamlet than anything more.)

Oh, and one other last note…  I have to add a “Thank you” here to Mr. Rankin, for had I not read his book and inspired to look up what inspired him, I would never have found out about the Syon Abbey Monastery.  Now little more than a ruin that is being slowly excavated, it was once the largest monastery in England.  I eventually must return to England just so I can visit Brentford.   I love this sort of thing.

And yes, I would recommend this book to a friend.

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