Book Review: Home and Away by Dave Roberts
There are some books you read which you immediately engage with and just can’t put down. Home and Away by Dave Roberts definitely falls into that category. The thing is that there isn’t just one thread within the book that lures you in, but several.
At the heart is the story of Bromley FC and its historic first season (2015/16) in the Vanarama National League, the division below the professional ranks of the Football League. Happily, for the author it coincides with his return to England after 35 years living in New Zealand and America, as he and his wife spend 12 months deciding whether ‘home’ will be the UK or USA.
During that time Roberts travels to as many games as he can afford and some that he can’t, in order to reconnect with his boyhood team and to see if after his years away whether his feelings for his beloved Bromley are still the same. Roberts perfectly captures what it is to follow your team and the lengths that fans sometimes go to in order to get their football fix, as he evokes memories of the habit of watching football and more specifically what that experience means at non-league level.
And from these journeys to grounds such as Boreham Wood, Cheltenham, Forest Green Rovers, Southport, Torquay, Tranmere, Wrexham and Hayes Lane, home of Bromley, it can be seen how Roberts’ writing has been compared to Bill Bryson. As with some of Bryson’s books, Home and Away has travel as a vehicle for keeping the narrative interesting and Roberts also demonstrates Bryon-esque wit with observations about the places he visits and the people he encounters, whilst also showing his ability to be self-deprecating. Furthermore, there is a warmth and innocence that Roberts is able to produce in his writing as he observes the changes in football, Bromley and England, after such a prolonged period away from the UK.
As the book develops, whilst football is still at the centre of the narrative, the reader is increasingly exposed to the two families of the author. One being the regulars and characters who watch Bromley and the other, Roberts’ blood-relations. Through this the reader gets a sense of who Dave Roberts is as a person, in terms of what is important to him in life and what makes him tick.
As a reader I felt privileged to share the emotions and journey that Home and Away provides.