Let The Swine Go Forth by Auriel Roe #BookReview #BlogTour

Out of the blue, vain and naive former drama teacher, Tristram Randolph, is offered the job of headmaster at a new school in Diskebapisbad, dysfunctional capital of a despotic post-Soviet state. Little does he know-- although the signs are obvious to all but him-- that the school is the pet project of the ruthless president's spoilt daughter. Randolph hires a motley crew of teachers, each of whom embodies one of the seven deadly sins. Swineforth International, a franchise of a third rate public school in England, is built on a half-finished campus in the desert. The food is appalling and there's no escape as the foreign faculty have had their passports retained. When inspectors Swainson and Dare arrive from Swineforth in England, their grave reservations about the new school and Randolph's ability to manage it are confirmed. Matters come to a head when a revolution breaks out, the school is shut down and Randolph is accused of aiding and abetting the rebellion. His only hope now lies in winning a presidential pardon by giving the performance of a lifetime as a pantomime dame.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Let The Swine Go Forth today. Many thanks to Auriel Roe for inviting me and for sending me a copy of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Auriel Roe's previous book A Blindefellows Chronicle when I read it last year so was looking forward to more of her gently subversive dry wit in Let The Swine Go Forth. In Blindefellows, the action takes place over several years with the school and its staff linking a collection of short stories but this time the story is told in a more linear fashion over the course of just a few months. There's a lovely connection to Blindefellows, however, with the erstwhile drama teacher, Tristram Randolph taking on the lead role this time after he is unexpectedly offered the position of headteacher at a new school in the fictional country, Diskepabisbad; a former Soviet state with a despotic president and a decidedly poor human rights record.
Randolph is completely oblivious to the warning signs that he may be getting in over his head and gleefully accepts the role. Meanwhile, his current school, Swineforth Hospital reluctantly agree to becoming a sister school - their concerns over the suitability of both the country and Randolph's own abilities outweighed by the promise of extra funds and in the case of his most outspoken critic, the school bursar, the chance to take Tristram off their books. He approaches his new job with all the confidence of a man who clearly doesn't have a clue about what he's doing but firmly believes his talents are finally being recognised. He is vain and incompetent but his many mistakes and his very gradual realisation that he's been taken for a fool means that there is something rather endearing about him.
Let The Swine Goes Forth delights in its wordplay, with unfortunate acronyms a recurring theme (at one point Randolph orders polo shirts for his staff bearing the school's initials on the back - Swineforth Hospital International Team) but there are less signposted moments of razor-sharp humour in this affectionate nod to the likes of Waugh and Wodehouse too. Each member of staff is the personification of a deadly sin but this is no cautionary tale and many are rather likeable despite their foibles - I was particularly fond of the duck-obsessed science teacher, Brian and the unashamedly insatiable Gemmy.
There are plenty of  joyfully farcical moments throughout the book, from an inspection which doesn't go at all to plan to a wonderful scene involving Tristram's father's latest invention - the Silligator satnav system but there's an undercurrent of danger to the novel too. The hapless Randolph may take a while to understand just how much trouble he is in but it's only too clear that a country which imprisons a visitor just for wearing a turkey hat isn't the sort of place to forgive honest mistakes. Although a very different plot, Let The Swine Go Forth reminded me a little of Psmith, Journalist in that the author examines some important social issues (such as the mistreatment of prisoners and state corruption) and in doing so drives Randolph to develop as a character without losing the essence of who he is.
The story is well-plotted and told with great charm and the fictional setting is vividly imagined - I was easily able to picture Diskepabisbad in my mind. I read Let The Swine Go Forth with a smile glued to my face; this thoroughly engaging book will appeal to anybody who enjoys unashamedly British silliness with a sharp edge. More please!

Let The Swine Go Forth can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

My debut novel, Blindefellows, was #1 in humour in Amazon US, UK and Canada last November making me - albeit briefly - the funniest person in the English-speaking world. Hoping to attain that accolade again with novel #2, Let The Swine Go Forth. In the early part of my career I was a teacher of art, drama and English. Somehow, this alchemic mix of subjects lead me to a writing career. It wasn't planned, I simply woke up with a story in my head which was subsequently shortlisted in a major UK short story competition. This short story then morphed into a novel, with said short story becoming the last chapter. I am also an artist with a couple of shortlisted Royal Academy pieces. Shortlisting is a bit of a theme here and I feel honoured to have got so far but to win, ah, to win...
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