As a proud Barrovian (yes people from Barrow-in-Furness have their own ‘nickname’) I was so excited to read William Thacker’s latest novel. As soon as I read the snippet in the blurb I knew this was a book I was going to enjoy. I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Lingua Franca focuses on the CEO of the company Lingua Franca whose ambition is to rename every UK town with the company names that sponsor them. I found this aspect interesting and trying to work out where town’s they’d already renamed, for example the company office is in Stella Artois, kept me on my toes. Where possibly could Stella Artois be? What about the town called Redbull? The CEO, Miles Platting (whose name I found equally interesting as it’s an inner city district in my university city, Manchester) sees himself as a language enthusiast. He believes language can be constructed, deconstructed, moulded for a purpose. We discover during the novel that he was an English teacher and his ex-wife, who he shares a wonderfully confusing relationship with, still lectures on English and its language. Miles and Kendal live in Stella Artois and their living situation is quite different. Miles lives in a gated community, with placed security guards on the entrances to the street. It is implied heavily that he lives there because he is scared for his life. Lingua Franca is hated and Miles, as the CEO, is doubly hated.
The story comes to life with the suicide of a Lingua Franca salesman. A salesman who is very good at his job but lives a depressingly normal life, according to Miles. The suicide of Eden seems to shift something within Miles. He becomes disillusioned with the company, with the aspects of language he is creating. However he can’t seem to stop. He ploughs on with the latest conquest, the renaming of Barrow-in-Furness.
This is where the story started to excite me even more than it already had done. The Lingua Franca team travels to Barrow-in-Furness and the descriptions of our town fascinated me. It’s painted in a grim light focusing on how the sponsorship from Birdseye will improve it immensely. I wasn’t offended by the way Thacker describes the town and the population. It was refreshingly honest. I love it when my town is mentioned, be it on the news for example. So reading a book that focuses more than half of it in my town was right up my alley. Miles is writing the story of the Lingua Franca journey and time in Barrow-in-Furness from a hospital bed in our local hospital. He is made to be silent, as the population of Barrow has become silent in rebellion to the hijack of the language Lingua Franca has committed.
Lingua Franca I thought was a masterpiece. It was wrote so beautifully, exploring language and it’s uses. I can’t reveal the whole story, as I’m sure you understand, but this is a book I’ve recommended to all my friend in Barrow. “You must read it! See how he attempts our accent!” The way Miles and Kendal’s relationship is portrayed made me hope so much for a happy ending. I was hoping for Miles to have an epiphany about Lingua Franca. Does he? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Lingua Franca by the vastly talented William Thacker is available from 16th May 2016 from the publishers Legend Press.