19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
GAP YEARS – DAVE HOLWILL – EXTRACT 3
In this extract, Sean has just retaken up playing the guitar after an accident cut short his bicycle-based ambitions. He has also been recently reacquainted with Rhiannon, who he thinks he is falling in love with.
‘Oh, I love this song, don’t you?’ she oozes over something coming from the radio the next morning. It’s some acoustic-guitar-toting, floppy-haired emotional guy singing about trees? Or beaches? I don’t know, I don’t really pay attention to lyrics. To tell you the truth, I’m not a big music listener at all. I listen to whatever happens to be on whichever radio station I come to first, normally Radio One, and I don’t usually notice what the words are, what the song’s called, or even who’s singing.
‘Yeah, me too,’ I reply. We’re working on the luxury range, so we’re supposed to work slowly to get the details of each bottle perfect. We are managing half of this. Rhiannon’s hair is a deep turquoise today, with green strips in her plaits, and I am having trouble concentrating on anything other than her. ‘I think he’s great.’
I have quite literally never heard this song before but what’s the odd little white lie?
‘Really?’ she coos, ‘I didn’t think you’d be into him? Even I’m a little embarrassed about it and I am a teenage girl.’
Shit, this must be some new teen idol, I am not earning myself any cool points here. I assumed she would only like people who are cool: hip, underground music that nobody else has heard of. Maybe she is being ironic? Students do that, they like incredibly kitsch stuff for kooky points.
‘Hey, what can I say? I’m a crazy guy.’ I smile.
‘Oh, so you’re like, the guy doing all the moves to the Macarena with the girls on the dance floor yeah?’ she asks.
‘No, but sometimes I shout at trees, and I spend a lot of time sitting in corners sobbing to myself.’
I heard this joke on a TV show, and I’ve been waiting for ages to use it.
Rhiannon’s blank look suggests she is not impressed, and there’s a chance it might be ill-judged and offensive.
Enough time goes by to confirm my suspicion. It is definitely not PC.
‘Sorry, sorry, anyway, I don’t think it matters who sings it,’ I try, ‘a good song is a good song right?’ Even I don’t believe me, and this song is becoming more awful by the second. ‘I’m learning it at the moment actually.’
I realise that this is an incredibly stupid thing to say about a song I have never heard before, and do not like, but I want her to know I am a musician.
‘Really?’ She flashes me an incredulous look. ‘What do you play?’
This is it, cool points coming. All totally worth it.
‘I play guitar, and sing.’ Fuck, I can’t sing, I proved that last night, what am I thinking?
‘Oh, I’d love to hear that. You’ll have to sing for me sometime.’ She finishes tying her bow with a snap, beaming at me. I am such a fucking twat. All cool points will be lost when she hears me tunelessly whining power ballads.
‘Yeah, anytime, but you’ll have to wait til I’ve got this one down. I want you to hear it.’ I am so far out of my depth it isn’t funny anymore. I can’t sing, I don’t know this song, I’ve barely touched a guitar in years and the only one I have access to is like a bench with fence wires stretched across.
‘Oh how exciting,’ she says. ‘Nobody’s ever sung me a Tom Hopkins song before.’
Tom fucking Hopkins! Really? Tom fucking Hopkins? The twelve year old that won that TV show last year, that Tom Hopkins? Housewives’ favourite Tom Hopkins? Christmas number one Tom Hopkins? Toddler’s birthday party disco Tom Hopkins? The one even Melody thinks is for kids? Fuck my life.
Author Bio –
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.
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