‘What was ugly can become beautiful in an instant. Peace is all around us. The slogan says:

               Birdseye-in-Furness: The Promise of a Brighter Barrow.

There’s a problem with Barrow, but it can be fixed. You just need to change the name to Birdseye. Everyone applauds once the credits roll. The reaction is the same as ever – the same as Skegness, Skelmersdale, and all the others that came before’.

TITLE: Lingua Franca

AUTHOR: William Thacker

GENRE: Literary fiction

PUBLISHER: Legend Press

PUBLISHED: 2016

PAGES: 178

Miles Platting is the founder of a naming rights agency whose chief focus is to systematically rename the UK’s towns after corporate sponsors. After he and his colleagues are shipwrecked, Miles is rescued and finds himself in a world where everyone is silent, and no one will speak to him. This is the premise of William Thacker’s intriguing novel about the value of language, and the prospect of love.

In the character of Miles, Thacker has created a flawed hero. This stereotypical businessman, initially focused on his company’s profit, appears to gain a heart throughout the novel. Unaffected and numbed by life, and everything around him, Miles initially only appears to care about Ptolemy, his cat, and his ex-wife. However, after one of his employees commits suicide in front of the whole office, Miles’ own perspective on his life, and the consequences of Lingua Franca on the communities it renames, begin to become apparent, showing that perhaps it is not place names that need to change, but Miles himself.

”The startling and only-too-viable world where Loughborough can become known as Listerine and Stoke-on-Trent as Virgin Media, was […] profoundly unsettling to read about”

Indeed, the startling and only-too-viable world where Loughborough can become known as Listerine and Stoke-on-Trent as Virgin Media, was not only profoundly unsettling to read about, but also instilled in this reviewer the feeling of the novel as an Orwellian portend of what might be to come, and warning of the dangers when marketing and advertising campaigns go too far.

Alongside cynically exploring language and its vitality in the world and communication, Lingua Franca is also undoubtedly a love story. Miles’ wife (or ex-wife?), Kendal, is a major part of his life, apart from the fact that they now live in separate homes, and live different lives, due to Kendal’s hatred of Miles’ business and his bringing about the death of the English language. It is Kendal that almost persuades Miles to change his ways, and I will leave it up to the reader to discover if she eventually succeeds in converting Miles.

”The contrast between our world and Miles’ is initially unnoticeable – apart from the renaming of the towns, this could be, and is, 2016 Britain’’

The contrast between our world and Miles’ is initially unnoticeable – apart from the renaming of the towns, this could be, and is, 2016 Britain. As the novel heads towards its climax, however, the differences become more prominent, the dystopian silence Miles experiences feeling increasingly overpowering, until the climactic end point of the text which focuses on the novel’s main theme: ‘All we need is a name’.

Humorous and engaging, but thought-provoking and with a hard-hitting undertone, Lingua Franca acts as a warning against greed and the power of advertising. An unsettling but unmissable read.

9/10

Amy Wilcockson

Image courtesy of Legend Press

To see Impact Arts’ interview with William Thacker, the author of ‘Lingua Franca’, see here.

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