Book Review: The Accidental Recluse

accidental recluse

The Accidental Recluse

Written by Tom McCulloch

340 pages

Published by Sandstone Press

Publication date: 15th March 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Johnny Jackson used to be a famous film director, but his brother Duke was a hero. Just turned 75, JJ is heading home from exile in Japan for one last blockbuster and a civic honouring. But home is where the ghosts of his past reside, some darker than his dead brother’s shadow. His sins may be about to come to light.

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I realised that without our father there would have been none of it.

Later, as I read a statement to the press pack outside, I thought about all the stories we tell about ourselves and others, liquid and shifting as a murmuration of starlings. What if I veered away from this man of great energy who will be truly missed and talked instead about how families are dictatorships and we are all the b*stard offspring of someone else’s failed ambition?

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book but was immediately interested in the premise. An old man is going back to his home-town in Scotland, after living overseas in Japan for a number of years. The journey home and what waits for him there opens up old wounds and brings to life old memories which have never truly let him rest. For most of the story we are uncertain of how much of the narrative is true and how much is being manipulated by the protagonist. As a director, is he deliberately choosing certain scenes and shots to shape the reader’s perception of him?

This unreliable protagonist adds an extra layer to the mystery of what really happened between JJ, Duke and Anna and kept me intrigued to the end. His quirky sense of humour and unexpected response to a stalker trying to reveal his secrets as well as his relationship with his driver, Akira, who has been with him for most of his life; all of these made each character feel real and fully-realized.

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for this book as I might not have come across it and would therefore have missed out on reading it. I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in the mismatch between our public persona and the person inside, and the way stories can be twisted and shaped to match our goals. A fascinating read!

A drift of lonely old piano, lost notes in the steaming darkness. Bicycle, limousine or shinkansen, we make those journeys and all our stories are eventually told.

We start as soon as we speak and there’s always some sucker willing to listen to the same old tales over and over. It’s the auto in biography.

What I liked: Setting in Japan and Scotland, JJ’s sense of humour, the mystery over what really happened to Duke.

Even better if: At times I really felt as if the story I’m reading is being manipulated by the main character -what is the truth?

How you could use it in your classroom: This isn’t one for the classroom, but could be recommended to adult readers, particularly those interested in Japan or film-making.

About the Author


Tom McCulloch has published poetry and short stories in various journals including Other Poetry, Northwords, Northwords Now, Eildon Tree, Markings, Buzzwords, and Wilderness magazine (New Zealand), and was long-listed for the Herald/Imagining Scotland short story competition 2011. With his first novel, The Stillman, he became an Amazon Rising Star.

Tom is from the Highlands of Scotland, and currently lives in Oxford with his family.

Find out more on his website.

(Thank you to Ceris and Sandstone Press for my review copy)

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stops on the blog tour for this book!

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While you’re here, why not read my reviews of I Wore My Blackest Hair, The Way You Make Me Feel, Starfish or A Different Pond?

Find me on Twitter , Goodreads or Instagram


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