Remember when we thought 2016 was the year from hell? Good times. In Philip Bowne’s debut novel, Cows Can’t Jump, the year is 2016. Billy is working a dead end job as a gravedigger and his family is falling apart. Then he mets Eva and has a chance to turn everything around. The real question is, how far are you willing to travel for love?
Key events from 2016 such as the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, Brexit and Trump’s victory as President of the United States are the background to the central story. Set in Cheltenham, we follow Billy as he bounces from job to job and the first time he falls in love. Bowne captures what it is to be seventeen and fall head over heels for someone you barely know. You will either shake your head or cringe with embarrassment over the antics Billy finds himself in while pining for Eva.
Billy is your typical seventeen-eighteen year old. He hates his family as we all do at that age. He just wants a way out. Grave digging just isn’t quite cutting it for him. It is that leads him to working another job and into Eva’s arms, a beautiful Swiss, who would ordinarily be out of Billy’s league. As Billy makes his way on his epic journey, he mets a wide variety of interesting characters. Through his interactions with each of these characters, Billy learns a valuable lesson. Without delving too much into spoilers, there’s a group of men called “Russian Dolls”, a man with a questionable methods for obtaining food while travelling and a group of war torn people who take pity on Billy.
The almost comedic situations Billy finds himself in throughout the novel will make you laugh out loud. The humour of the situations really come through in Bowne’s writing. But what really shines in this novel is the importance of family. Billy’s father is somewhat absent, favouring boxing over his family life. Billy suspects his mother is having an affair as his parents marriage is falling apart. Meanwhile his grandfather is marrying someone half his age. From the blurb alone, it is clear that this book will be filled with a family fighting, and at one point literally, to come back together. It is a heartwarming tale of a family coming back together despite their ages and beliefs.
If you are looking for a book to devour and escape yourself in, set in a year we thought was dreadful at the time but looking back wasn’t so bad, then look no further than Cows Can’t Jump. It will make you laugh, it will tug on your heartstrings, but most importantly it will remind you that family is all we have during trying times and it’s best to stick close to them.
Carenza Bramwell is a Third Year Creative and Professional Writing Student and this years President/Editor in Chief
Featured Photography by Carenza Bramwell