Book of the Week

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norri. Photo: PA Photo/Doubleday
Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norri. Photo: PA Photo/Doubleday

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris is published in hardback by Doubleday.

Having already made quite a name for himself in the theatre world, award-winning playwright Barney Norris is adding another string to his bow with his debut novel Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain.

Although on paper the premise doesn’t seem particularly special - five strangers united by one accident - in all other respects, it’s a brilliant and multi-layered story.

Each chapter is devoted to one of the five individuals and part of the enjoyment of the book is discovering the myriad ways they are all connected to each other. This is done gradually, with casual passing comments and small surprising revelations that draw you further into the story.

The author has an uncanny ability to capture even the tiniest nuances of each character, whether it’s an army wife in the midst of a breakdown, a recently widowed elderly man or a teenage boy with a hopeless crush.

Although the novel is primarily character-driven, it also has a wonderful sense of place and it is in part a homage to Salisbury, where the author grew up. The city could in fact be the sixth character in the novel in terms of the frequent lyrical and evocative descriptions of the landscape, and it’s impossible not to become swept up by the author’s beautifully poetic language.

Exploring big existential ideas about love, loss, faith and purpose, Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain is a startlingly good debut and hopefully a sign of great things to come from talented Barney Norris.