Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The second novel by Burt Surmon is a complete departure from his first where the hedonistic pursuits of a group’s weekend in South Australia’s wine region was only mildly interrupted by a murder.
In Da Capo, his main character is Toby Hill whose quest for an enduring happy relationship with a partner he trusts continues to fall short. As the title suggests, there are repeated beginnings; there are three that disappointingly end with Toby’s realising his failure to regard a future with any of the women.
Sheila was first, when he was still a young man, idealistic, inexperienced and refusing to consider the counsel of his parents, particularly his mother. Toby was too young, innocent and ignorant of life outside of the cosy upbringing he had known. Their partnership was doomed to end.
Some years on, he was in a relationship with Bella. Together they had thrilling travel adventures, crossing overland to England, visiting fascinating countries en route. He has had a job in New Guinea prior, where he saves for the trip. While there, he suspects the fidelity of Bella who easily slips into a liaison with The Neighbour. Once again, his disappointment takes shape, this time when he admits to himself that all Bella wanted was to have experience of travel to different countries and to meet interesting people.
After the parting of ways from her, he meets Lisa while living In Newcastle, England. Once more he finds that she too is keen to sleep with other men and not be exclusively attached to Toby. Lisa too is self-serving. She regards him as a means of getting to Australia.
He becomes more wary and discerning as the years pass so meeting Lea appears finally to offer an opportunity for the secure relationship he has sought. She is funny, clever, hardworking and together they dare to plan a future. Pooling finances enables them to establish a vineyard which they turn into a highly productive and successful business with the added bonus of their enjoyment of the demands of such an enterprise.
So much recently published fiction is devoted to examining women’s relationship dramas.
Da Capo is refreshing in that Toby, a man with many attractive attributes, would be expected to settle into a contented arrangement but instead suffers mistrust, disillusionment, sometimes anger. His dream of finding the right partner is often shattered: a plight not unlike some fiction devoted to women.
The most enjoyable feature in the book is the anecdotal listing of the scenes and highlights of the jaunt across continents to England. It triggered nostalgia for those years when the world was a safer, friendlier, more accessible place, unscathed by political unrest, exorbitant cost, and the negatives of tourism.
Surmon frequently refers to poets, songs, and music and this seems to make the narrative disjointed, as if a shadow of the author has intruded rather than adding a dimension to Toby. It suggests that it is more a display of the writer’s own wide-ranging culture…
The concept of Toby’s search for a suitable partner/lover works on some levels but there are times when this chronicle becomes unwieldy. It reads more like a diary, briefly noting various observations.
However, Da Capo offers a pleasant indulgence. Although it has a more serious vein than his previous book, this is not overly oppressive. The author manages to lend a lighter touch to a tale that can be important to many.
by Burt Surmon
ISBN 978 192304 208 7