Think: rainy Sunday afternoon, over-stuffed armchair, nice bottle of red, box of Swiss chocolates and, most importantly, a rather large box of tissues. Then, snuggle up and prepare to be totally charmed by C. S. Richardson’s debut novel. I loved this book. The characters feel like an old sweater and jeans: so comfortable, so familiar, so lived in. I felt quite at home with their conversations and philosophy on life.
This is the story of Ambrose Zephyr and his partner Zappora Ashkenazi, or Zipper as she is called. Ambrose has unexpectedly been diagnosed with a rare illness which means he only has one month, at most, to live. What unfolds throughout the story is their way of coping with the news, both from their individual perspectives and as a couple. They embark on what Ambrose deems as the imperative, rational way of spending what time he has left – a journey each day to a different place, working through the alphabet, A-Z. Their attempted travels bring to fruition the necessary and meaningful setting through which they are able to deal with, and contemplate, Ambrose’s impending death. They reminisce and re-visit past haunts and memories, and the reader travels along with them, meeting their friends; glimpsing aspects of their lives and sharing some of the pains and joys they have encountered.
The end of the alphabet is obviously sad, but Ambrose’s passing is only part of the story. Richardson provides us with a privileged, fly-on-the-wall peek into the lives of wholly likeable, interesting people, and along side of them we mourn their tragedy. For sure, the subject matter is like a cliché – something covered by so many novels before, but Richardson manages to bring something new, something fresh, and something entirely adorable to the story.