Troubador Mallaig Road

Released: 28/01/2022

ISBN: 9781803130965

eISBN: 9781803138541

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Mallaig Road

A Journey Through Childhood


Mallaig Road tells the story of Alexander’s childhood in conservative 1960s Cape Town, his high school years in Johannesburg, and his early adult years. The story spans the decade between the Maclean family’s arrival in Cape Town from Kenya in April 1965, and Alexander’s first extended visit to Britain during 1976.

On the surface, Alexander’s childhood (the events of which – great and small – form the core of this affectionate observation of a boy’s life) is an idyllic one. But no childhood is truly without its dark corners, and in Alexander’s case, it is asthma which overshadows his childhood years. Furthermore, we observe the first early signs of a sometimes-troubled life to come, as Alexander navigates a path through his teenage years at high school.

But these early indications of future unhappiness are few.

Anyone who grew up in the suburbs in the nineteen-sixties (and in particular, in suburban Cape Town) will find much that strikes a chord. 

Alexander’s character is not yet fully formed by the time he sets off on his first visit to Britain, in January 1976. He is still the somewhat solitary, self-contained young man he was throughout his high school years, but he is possessed of much charm when he chooses to exercise it. During the nine months he spends in England and Scotland, Alexander learns at last how to be a social creature. He realises with surprise that people rather like him. He returns home in September that year a far more self-confident young man than he had departed.

The story of Alexander’s life, 1976 – 2021, can be read in Hemispheres: The Life of Alexander Maclean, to be published later in 2022. 

I wrote Mallaig Road during the Covid lockdowns of 2020 - 2021, as an antidote to anxiety and unhappiness. And a most effective antidote it proved to be. Through the boy-hero, Alexander Maclean, I was able to relive a time in my own life when anxieties were few, and, like unhappiness, were fleeting. I hope the reader too will be transported back in time to a place where anxieties and unhappiness were few and fleeting.

The story in Mallaig Road, which opens in 1965, shortly after Alexander Maclean's tenth birthday, closes with Alexander's extended visit to the United Kingdom in 1976. He is now twenty-one years old. I plan to publish a sequel, "Hemispheres," later in 2022, which picks up where Mallaig Road leaves off, and charts the course of Alexander's life through to 2021, by which time he is sixty-six years old.

I enjoyed this novel. I highly recommend it. It is a lovely family saga with some memorable scenes of family gatherings and interactions. The descriptions of the scenery in various places of Kenya and South Africa and accounts of places such as Johannesburg and Cape Town are excellent and make the book of great interest. They are clearly based on the author's first hand knowledge. There are some beautiful passages of scenes of family life, and although some might readers find these somewhat idealised, to ne they had a gentle appealing quality. The author has a wonderful command of language. The careful, nuanced psychological study of the main character Alexander gives the book depth, even if the character development is lacking in the other family members. It is an amazing and perceptive study of a person growing into adulthood. However there seemed to be in some passages focus on rather minute details such as of what people ate or even going to the facilities in one episode – or about which particular edition of a classic novel someone was reading - some of this jarred a bit but perhaps the author was trying to recreate a bit of social history. The scenes near the end in Oban with the main protagonist and a local girl Mairi were very touching and engaging, and the closing sections did leave an appetite for the promised sequel.

by Malcolm Kinnear

Mallaig Road by Robert Dewar is a compelling story of an African childhood, full of sweetness and some sadness. It is set, for the most part, against the backdrop of Cape Town.
We follow a few years of Alexander’s life, from the age of ten, when he and his family arrive in Cape Town from Kenya, and observe him growing up and learning about himself and about life. A deeply sensitive little boy, with a loving and kind family, who experience the range of family life, both happy and tragic. The story is free from unlikely human dramas, rather has a ‘normality’ one can identify with, together with a recognition of childish thoughts, thinking and emotions.
Drama does feature, in Dewar’s vivid descriptions of the country around Cape Town, which bring its rugged beauty fully into one’s mind’s eye and is deeply nostalgic for anyone who has lived in; visited the area and / or loves Africa.
Mallaig Road is beautifully written, with fascinating historical and cultural detail and leaves you very keen to hear what happens next, to Alexander.

I highly recommend the book.

by Harriet Ware-Austin (Amazon)

This book tells the story of Alexander a child living in Cape Town in the 1960's. The description of his day to day life is absorbing and interesting and sounds idyllic. However, Alexander has his demons and it is clear that he will have much to deal with in his later life.

The details of the South African countryside took me there and I wished I could have been with Alexander and his friends while they explored it.

The book left me wanting more and I very much hope there is a sequel

by Bella (Amazon)

In this splendid bildungsroman the author writes of a near idyllic childhood in Cape Town. The prose is engaging and enchanting, recreating a lost world of almost perfect innocence. There's a great combination of intimate characterization and descriptive scene setting in a middle class family enjoying life in a landscape still new to them. A text full of poignant, endearing moments and well-placed empathy.

by NetGalley Reviewer

Robert Dewar

Robert Dewar was born in Central Africa in the mid 1950s, and was educated in South Africa. He has a degree in History. As a young man he worked as a field guide in Southern Africa, and as a game ranger. In later years he worked as a business researcher and writer.

He has lived in East Africa, South Africa, Namibia, the United Kingdom, Malta and the Far East.

He now lives in the Scottish Highlands.

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