Our December read was a time-travelling adventure by Andrew Fish, following school-teacher Erasmus Hobart as he embarks on a journey to find Robin Hood and learn the truth behind the myth.
For the first time in our (albeit rather short) history, the discussion surrounding the book was slightly over-shadowed by lovely food, courtesy of the very kind and very patient La Tasca, who had ten hungry book lovers invade their peace for a mini-Christmas party. However, from the rather heated, sangria-fuelled debate, it soon became apparent that the over-all opinion of the book was mixed.
As a group made up of publishing/book folk who all read different genres it was understandable that some wouldn’t like this story as at times the narrative appeared to be geared more for children than adults (but yet wouldn’t sit as a YA book), and at times it bordered on repetitive in it’s story-telling. We also felt that, given the blurb, there could have been more time travel – indeed the first chapter entices you, making you believe Erasmus will travel repeatedly through time in the adventure, but, in fact, he only makes two trips during the book. Not that we’re being picky, but maybe the ‘time travelling romp’ was a bit misleading in terms of the blurb.
I tend to enjoy historical fiction, but I found that some things weren’t quite explained enough – firstly where on earth did Erasmus get the selection of accurate period costumes? No school drama department has that good a range! Meanwhile those of The Edge of Reading with slightly poor eyesight picked holes in Erasmus washing his contacts in the stream, which in reality would have been filthy – it turns out we’re a very picky bunch of armchair historians.
We did have some bigger questions, mainly revolving around the ending which we felt was a bit unsatisfactory – for example how did Erasmus not get sacked from his teaching job after disappearing for so long, essentially claiming he’d locked himself in the cupboard?
That being said, I found Fish’s take on the Robin Hood legend to be a refreshing view, if not a totally new approach – fans of the old BBC Maid Marian and her Merry Men series might find similarities. Robin is the villain of the piece (although a somewhat misguided villain), while Marian emerges as the hero and, along with her band of female outlaws, steals from the rich to give to the poor. The discussion we had revolved around how we enjoyed the strong female characters – even the slightly crazed Alice who seems hell-bent on murder – compared to the easily manipulated Robin and the always-evil Sheriff of Nottingham and his clumsy, foolish knights. We also all liked the Friar Tuck character, but his part of the book was over too soon for my liking. Of all the male characters he was certainly the most entertaining. Controversially we found Erasmus to be a bit of a weak lead role, certainly too weak for the formidable Maude, his potential love interest.
In theory there is something in there for everyone – time travel, romance, action and the legend of Robin Hood, but yet something was missing that meant that this wasn’t quite the book we had hoped it would be. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a cheery Christmas read in front of the fire then you could do much worse than settling down with Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow. I’d rate it a fairly generous (3 / 5) (knowing full well that this will spark further debate, but it is Christmas).