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Like all of his books i found this one should have come with a box of tissues, but maybe i am just a bit soft...
The smoke Jumper is primarily about two friends, Ed and Conner. They are Smoke Jumpers in Montana. Young and reckless they enjoy the high pay and the adrenaline of the job. Until one particular fire when they are both jumping to save a Woman they both love but one of them cannot have.
The story unfolds into the lives of Conner and Ed after the effects of the fire and the high emotion that goes with it.
I find the same thing with all of his books in that you have to stick with it and pick it up at a time when you have the time to sit and read for long periods otherwise you get a bit lost with all that goes on. It takes a while to get into the story and the characters but once you do, when you finish you feel like you have lost a friend. Nicolas Evans books are not the kind for people that like light fluffy reads. You really have to get in there to appreciate the quality of the writing and the brilliance of his story telling.
Firstly, thanks to pania22 (angela) who recommended this book to me :)
Nicolas Evans is a writer whose work I hadn't read until recently - I had however, heard of his most popular book 'The Horse Whisperer' - but only because of the film adaptation. As 'horse whispering' doesn't really interest me (or at least I don't think it does) I started out by reading his wolf-based second book 'The Loop', which I generally enjoyed.
This particular review focuses on Evans' third offering 'The Smoke Jumper', which was released in 2001, and can currently be purchased from Amazon for £5.49.
'So what is a 'smoke jumper'?' I hear you ask - I know it sounds like the result of a cardigan being left a little too close to some faulty Christmas lights, but it isn't. A smoke jumper is a firefighter who parachutes into a fairly inaccessible area in order to control the outbreak of flames and stop the blaze spreading.
The story mainly focuses on two good friends - Ed Tully (an aspiring composer), and Connor Ford (a photographer), both of who are smoke jumpers. Upon meeting a beautiful woman named Julia as the result of a dispute over a parking space, Ed can't believe his luck - however, Julia doesn't realise that spending the summer counselling troubled youths in Montana will change her life forever...
The plot of the Smoke Jumper can't be pigeonholed into one specific area of fiction, as there are elements of many different genres cropping up throughout the story - action, romance, thriller - there really is something for everyone. Evans' writing style is easy-reading and descriptive, and some of the book's settings - from the dusty Montana landscapes, to war-torn Africa (where Connor later works as a photojournalist), are beautifully envisaged, allowing the reader to imagine themselves actually in the midst of the action.
Although Evan's previous work 'The Loop' was a decent read, I found the Smoke Jumper to be much more enjoyable, and I certainly became further immersed into the story than I did with his previous book. The characters are fully fleshed out and (most importantly) likeable, which always makes getting involved in the plot a lot easier - I actually had trouble putting this one down, and it was frequently the case of 'just one more chapter'.
Overall, The Smoke Jumper is a highly entertaining book which really engages the reader. The characters are beautifully written, and the general level of research that Evans must have had to undertake is staggering - he packs a thorough knowledge of so many diverse topics into one novel - Highly recommended as a great book.
Nicholas Evans' most famous story is The Horse Whisperer, made famous in full glossy Hollywood style by Robert Redford ten years ago. Like that book and Evans' other masterpiece The Loop, the heart of The Smoke Jumper lies very much in the American West, and uses those grand surroundings as the primary backdrop for a tale of love and loss.
In a small town in Montana we encounter two apparently sensible men, good humoured musician Ed and taciturn farmer Connor. I use the word 'apparently', because the activity that acts as glue to these two men's friendship is smoke jumping - parachuting from planes to put out forest fires. They are a tight knit pair with an apparently unbreakable bond. That is, until Ed brings his youth worker girlfriend Julia into the situation and Connor falls hopeless, unforgivably in love. Julia, and the love that both men have for her, will change all their lives forever.
Thus Evans sets the scene, balancing characters in a situation as volatile as a gunpowder keg. Over the succeeding chapters, characters will suffer and make mistakes: fall in and out of love: travel to the farthest corners of the earth. It is no major spoiler to say that not every character will make the end of the book. It sounds like the recipe for a truly magnificent story - so it is strange that when I reached the end, I found myself left underwhelmed.
Evans definitely has a talent for description, particularly of the Wild American mountain scenery that is the spiritual home of his characters. The woodlands, rocks, wild streams and small towns are all beautifully drawn, and although I cannot comment on their accuracy, I can vouch for the clarity of the images they create. But strangely for such a talented author, when he leaves his natural habitat he loses some of the spark that makes his writing so special. When characters travel to such varied places as Eastern Europe and war torn Uganda, the quality of description sinks to the familiar phrases used by so many authors. You accept his tales of hot dust, shattered cities and distant gunfire: but you do not feel them in the way you feel his Montana.
The same problems apply to the story. While in America, the characters are believable and so easily carry the more melodramatic turns of the plot. But as the book progresses, as the characters age and disperse, they lose some of that crucial realism. When the characters stop being relatable is the point where the plot also stops being believable, and the combination renders the later part of the book for me highly disappointing.
I'm not saying you shouldn't read this book. If you have time to kill on a plane or train, or you need beach reading, or just something to skim through in sections at bedtime, then you will probably quite enjoy it. But in The Smoke Jumper, Evans opts for wide ranging flare in place of the deep emotion and character studies of his other work, and that is the feature of those stories that made them more than just another forgettable novel. This will most likely be for you, as it was for me, a book picked up by chance and therefore acceptable. But if you have a choice of Evans' work, I'd say go and get The Loop out of your local library. That, and the Horse Whisperer, are books that will never disappoint - and more fitting examples of Evans' skill as an author.