Small Hours

the spellbinding new novel from the author of ISAAC AND THE EGG

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Pub Date 14 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 28 Mar 2024
Headline | Headline Review

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'Powerful' JOANNA GLEN
'Beautiful' KATE SAWYER

The eagerly awaited new novel from Bobby Palmer, author of the critically acclaimed debut Isaac and the Egg.

If you stood before sunrise in this wild old place, looking through the trees into the garden, here's what you'd see:

A father and son, a fox standing between them.

Jack, home for the first time in years, still determined to be the opposite of his father.

Gerry, who would rather talk to animals than the angry man back under his roof.

Everything that follows is because of the fox, and because Jack's mother is missing. It spans generations of big dreams and lost time, unexpected connections and things falling apart, great wide worlds and the moments that define us.

If you met them in the small hours, you'd begin to piece together their story.

'A magical, comforting read that touches on father-son relationships, male mental health and the healing power of nature' GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

'A beautiful examination of love and loss' HEAT

'Tender and touching' GLAMOUR


'A tender story of love, grief and the transformative power of friendship' Guardian

'Truly one of the most beautiful stories you will ever read' Joanna Cannon

'Will linger longer after the final page' Independent

'Unique, tender and funny' Pandora Sykes

'A future classic' Clare Mackintosh

'Like nothing I've ever read before' Stylist

'An arresting debut novel about grief in the most wonderfully oblique way' Reverend Richard Coles

'Just magic' Kate Sawyer

'Powerful' JOANNA GLEN
'Beautiful' KATE SAWYER

The eagerly awaited new novel from Bobby Palmer, author of the critically acclaimed debut Isaac and the Egg.

If you stood before...

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ISBN 9781035402656
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Average rating from 141 members

Featured Reviews

"Small Hours" by Bobby Palmer is a captivating exploration of family dynamics, self-discovery, and the intricate web of connections that shape our lives. Palmer, known for his critically acclaimed debut "Isaac and the Egg," delivers another poignant narrative that skilfully weaves together the complexities of human relationships.

The story unfolds against the backdrop of a wild and mysterious place, where a father, a son, and a fox stand at the heart of a tale that is both emotionally charged and beautifully nuanced. Jack's return from the city sets the stage for a powerful examination of the father-son dynamic, with palpable tension between them. The narrative skilfully navigates the delicate balance between the desire to be different and the persistent echoes of familial influence.

Palmer's prose, exemplified by the evocative description of standing before sunrise in the garden, draws readers into a world where emotions are keenly felt, and every moment is pregnant with meaning. The presence of a fox as a symbolic figure adds an intriguing layer to the narrative, hinting at the untamed and unpredictable nature of the relationships at the story's core.

The characters, particularly Jack and Gerry, are portrayed with depth and authenticity. Their internal struggles and the evolution of their identities create a compelling narrative arc. The exploration of memory and the realization that neither character is exactly as the other remembers adds a layer of mystery, inviting readers to piece together the puzzle of their shared history.

The central theme of connection and belonging resonates throughout the novel, reminding readers of the profound impact that relationships have on our sense of self and place in the world. The small hours become a metaphor for the moments that define us, and the narrative encourages readers to appreciate the beauty and significance of those fleeting moments.

"Small Hours" is not just a story; it's an invitation to reflect on the intricacies of the human experience. Palmer's ability to craft a narrative that is both emotionally rich and intellectually engaging solidifies his place as a master storyteller. This novel is a testament to the power of storytelling to illuminate the profound truths that shape our lives.

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Oh my goodness this book is truly gorgeous I didn’t think much could be as good as Isaac and the egg but Bobby palmer really has done it again with this lovely book

So I’m nearly into the last month of 2023 reading and here comes a book which shows me precisely how you can never write your list of top 2023 Read’s until the year has actually ended. This book is definitely going to be on it, I really adored it
I loved the book right from the beginning, the talking Fox really got my attention has he really spoken surely not ? I had read and adored the authors previous novel, Isaac and the egg and the author uses the same method of introducing you to the human characters thoughts and feelings by showing you the way they interact with an inanimate, object or animal. In Isaac and the egg It was the egg in this novel It is a feral Fox which appears to be able to talk to 2 of the main characters. They are able to admit their deepest fears and feelings to the Fox. When both characters in reality are men of so few words that they might have been autistic to share their feelings with their family member

The novel by focusing on an elderly man who is gradually losing his memory, to an unnamed dementia, and his son, who is struggling with the world of high finance and city, living allows us to see how both characters issues affect the other ultimately the novel provides a beautifully accurate description of dementia in an elderly person and of its affect on their family .
I found myself in tears at several points as I read the book . Although the subject matter is sad it ends up still feeling, optimistic and hopeful
I love the authors writing style, it’s flows easily and is on occasions deeply poetic .
I would strongly recommend this book to my friends. If you enjoyed Isaac and the eggs, then you would love this one too, if you loved books like Greif is a thing with feathers by Max Porter and a Ellie and the harpmaker by Hazel Prior or a little hope, by Ethan joella then I think you would love this book
I read an early copy of the novel on NetGalley, UK The novel is published in the UK on the 14th of March 2024 by Headline books Headline review
This review will appear on NetGalley, UK, good reads, and my book blog after publication, it will also appear on Amazon, UK

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‘A far smaller, infinitely more massive life.’

Bobby Palmer’s writing has spaces in which to breathe, to slow down, and to appreciate the insights he has into life itself.

This book is even better than his first. It sets aside all the striving that humans do, to concentrate on what lasts, season by season and day by day.

I loved it.

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Oh my, what a wonderful story. The story of a father and son unable to connect and a talking fox!
Keep a few tissues near by.

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Over the course of a few hours, Jack's carefully-built life starts to fall apart. First, Jack loses his job, and with it all sense of who he is as a person; then he encounters a talking fox, surely a sign that he is losing his mind; and, to top it all off, his sister calls to summon him home, a place he has been avoiding for much of the last fifteen years. But instead of coming at the worst possible time, perhaps the call to come home, to the father whose mind is not as clear as it once was, the sister who is tired of waiting for her own life to begin, and the mother who is not there at all, actually comes just when Jack needs it the most.

Much like Bobby Palmer's debut, Isaac and the Egg, which I also loved, Small Hours is so much more than its blurb can contain. Jack is the main character of this book, and his story is a relatable and realistic one, of the boy who grew up desperate to get away from home, and of the man who thought he had his life all planned out, but it is also interwoven with something quite magical. And the book alternates its focus between different characters, giving each the chance to become a vividly created person - the woman who feels motherhood has turned her into someone she doesn't recognise, the man whose own experiences have led him to struggle in fatherhood. Small Hours contains so much within its pages, but it retains a tight focus that means it never becomes bloated or confusing.

Books that play around with structure don't always work for me, but I loved the way Small Hours was written, with some characters' stories being told in slightly different ways. Each style seemed to suit the character perfectly, and I especially loved the way Palmer captured the thoughts slipping through and out of Jack's father's mind. Small Hours is one of those rare books that you want to devour, because the story is so engaging, and to savour, because the writing is so beautiful. I wasn't convinced that Bobby Palmer would be able to live up to his debut, but I am delighted that he has.

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In the city, hard-working, Jack Penwick learns to his shock and horror that his employers, Hugo and Hugh are selling their company with no warning, so it’s game over. How has he not seen this coming? On the common, reflecting on what to do, an injured fox moves towards him, his eyes pleading for help. Jack rings an animal charity, it’s collected and then ……you’ll have to read it to find out!! This is just the start as within Jack’s family things start to fall apart.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Bobby Palmer is a wordsmith genius, he’s so creative, and what’s more he gets you to buy into whatever his fertile imagination has conjured up. I couldn’t see how he could top the wonderful “Isaac and The Egg” but he has in this touching, moving, emotionally charged second novel. He takes us on a wonderful journey from The City, to The Country, where his parents live in an eccentric tumbledown house “Mole End “ and then into The Wild and what a journey it is. Along the route to the poignant ending, there are sections that are so beautifully lyrical that they are almost poetry. His words have a way of finding their way into your heart, there is such empathy and it’s often tinged with gentle humour.

There are so many elements I could comment on. Some of the most touching parts of the book come from his father Gerry who has an unnamed dementia. How his confused memories and present day thoughts are described is so moving with perfectly apt and appropriate descriptions. These sections especially pierce my heart as my father had Alzheimer’s, and it makes me feel almost as if Gerry and my dad are talking to me helping me to understand.

What of the fox? I love the fox and Jack parts, he really is Fantastic Mr Fox. I will say little about this as it’s magical, symbolic with the joy and sorrow of this best discovered for yourself. We meet a whole range of creatures in this novel which perfectly highlights situations and often signals danger.

As for the characters, they are portrayed with such understanding and sensitivity. You view Gerry, his wife, Hazel when young with their love, hopes, dreams and adventures. You appreciate how different and difficult their relationships are with their children and so you grow to understand why Jack is as he is. These are complex and complicated relationships as understandable facades are built. However, this is about a search for identity, for what is lost, can it be refound and healed??

Wow, what a book. I cannot praise it highly enough and if it’s not a best seller, then they’re truly is no justice in the world. Thank you so much Bobby, I loved it.

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Headline for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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I've already posted this on Goodreads;

This is one of the most poignant and beautiful books I’ve read. Palmer bought the same magic and quiet impact from “Isaac and the egg” and applied it to a quiet image of domesticity.

I fell in love with Jack and Gerry, able to empathise with both and understand their stories, feeling the gap between them.

The writing style was unique and wonderful and really illustrated the jumbled thoughts. I felt transported to the forest and one with nature.

Although this is likely to be described as a book about family relationships, it feels bigger than that. It’s about realising our own mortality, and seizing what makes us happiest.

I urge you to read this book, and share it with others. It’s the most beautiful book I’ve read this year (2023), and I can’t wait to see more from the author.

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This was far from my usual read but after all the acclaim for Isaac and the egg I was really intrigued to read this. Featuring two main (human) characters, father Gerry and son Jack who have had little to do with each other over the last many years. Both of them are experiencing a turning point in their lives but are no closer to understanding the other until a fox intervenes between them. The different voices and styles of writing in this were fabulous, the way the author wrote Gerry’s thoughts in particular was very poignant. The story in itself is simple but there’s so many layer of emotion, of past history that fly off the page it gradually unfolds the situations that have led to today, to the estrangement between the two and of Jack’s realisations of why he lives his life as he does and how he feels in life. There are many dimensions to this but at heart it’s about two men and the relationships between fathers and sons.

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Jack Penwick has spent many years in the city, in his concrete and glass tower, burying himself in work, he’s extremely conscientious, never counting the hours, always in the office before anyone else. A very different life to the old one he used to lead when he lived with his parents and sister in a tumbling down house on a hill surrounded by woods, in a village far away from the cities. He was eager for a completely different lifestyle when he left for University - and he definitely achieved that goal.

Jack and his father, Gerry, ( who now has dementia) have had a somewhat strained relationship - his father disagreed with Jack going to University and then working in the city - he never congratulated him on his achievements, in fact Gerry would rather talk to the animals on his land than this angry young man he calls his son, and equally, Jack would rather ignore this man who is his father, a man who never took any interest in his life.

And so, father and son let the years slip by, barely seeing each other, the chasm growing ever wider, and Jack barely had any contact with his mother and sister as a consequence, something that hurts his mother terribly.

Then one day Jack received a call from his sister saying that their mother had gone missing. This was poor timing for Jack, having just lost his job, he had enough to worry about, but he had no option but to return to the crumbling old house on the hill, back to a father he no longer cared for. However, one day very soon, you will see father and son standing in the back garden, staring out into the woods, oddly, with a fox standing between them, and this particular fox plays a very big part in this storyline!

Each Penwick family member hurts so badly, is bitter, unable to find the right words, unable to find ANY words - hanging onto previous slights and disappointments until they fester - unable to see a way forward. The words are there, but they’re buried deep inside, unable or unwilling to be voiced.

From the author of the hugely popular Isaac and the Egg, the writing in Small Hours is exquisite, describing the wildlife, landscape and emotions, in such a way as to make them a character in their own right. This is a beautiful story and comes very highly recommended.

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I was so excited to read this as I was a huge fan of Isaac and the Egg... and I wasn't disappointed. It's every bit as warm, poignant, quirky and beautifully written and I absolutely loved it. The relationship between Jack and Fox works in much the same way as the relationship between Isaac and Egg but it still felt fresh and different. I never know who to say when people ask me who my favourite author is, but from now on the answer is Bobby Palmer!

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“An elm. An eclipse. A black butterfly. Midnight, a fox crossing your path.”

Bobby Palmer has done it again. I think ‘Isaac and the Egg’ may well be my favourite read of 2023, and when I was lucky enough to get my hands on his second book, I was distraught - surely the magic of Egg’s story couldn’t be replicated? However, I’m happy to report that ‘Small Hours’ more than delivers.

Jack’s fast paced London life comes to a grinding halt when he abruptly loses his job and finds everything he’s worked for crumbling around him. Adrift and confused, he bumps into an injured fox on a park walk in an attempt to clear his head. Oh, but there’s just one catch; the fox can talk. From here spirals a quietly epic family story of Jack and his father Gerry and how a loveable fox just might be the key to help heal their fractured relationship.

I loved this book. Told primarily through the alternating perspectives of Jack and his father, but also dipping into the mindset of absent mother Hazel, journeying to the past and occasionally embodying various local wildlife, Palmer’s scope and narrative structure are equally ambitious. Plagued with a disease resembling Parkinson’s and/or dementia, Gerry’s sections are heat-wrenchingly tangential, however this leads to some of Palmer’s more poetic and ambitious passages, and ones which I particularly enjoyed stylistically.

There’s no doubt that this author has a talent for writing complex family relationships, and his dabbling with magical realism elements help ensure his stories are unforgettable; namely, by anthropomorphising a loveable creature and tasking it with healing the rift between family members. Yes, this book definitely had echoes of ‘Isaac and the Egg’ in both characters and narrative arc. Was I mad about it? No. Palmer has hit on a formula that works, and I know I’ll be thinking about Fox just as much as I’ll be thinking about Egg (aka forever).

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This was another beautifully emotional one from Bobby Palmer, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Small Hours handles the incredibly difficult subject of Dementia with love and care. Personally, it was tough to read because it hits close to home but, I loved the sensitivity and poetic nature of the book. And, just like Issac and the Egg, I loved the mystery and magic surrounding Jack and the fox.

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I was so excited to read this as I was a massive fan of Isaac and the Egg!!
Small Hours is an equally captivating and emotionally charged read that offers a deep exploration of family relationships and personal discovery. The story follows Jack, estranged from his father and working in the city, who returns home to the country when his mother mysteriously leaves. Once again the author handles complex and sensitive themes with care and finesse.
A really engaging read.

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Another triumph for Bobby Palmer.

Heartwarming, heart breaking, this novel has themes of familial relationships, expectations, dementia and of course, a talking fox.

I really enjoyed it, it was quirky and at times sad but again it really spoke to me. Beautifully written, it was a pleasure to read it. I can’t wait for this one to be released as I will be recommending it to my book club, as we all really enjoyed ‘Isaac and the egg’.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Palmer's debut novel, Isaac and the Egg was my book of 2022, so of course, I pounced on his second.

Palmer is a genius with words and has succeeded in following up his superb debut novel as poignantly and perceptively. Isaac and the Egg dealt with grief. This deals with regrets, unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, the missed opportunities of four members of a family and a devastating disease of one of them, which makes for a considerably more intense read. Jack doesn't talk to his father. Charlotte, his sister, doesn't talk to Jack. Why does his father have reminders all over the house, and where the heck is his mother?

Yes. Intense. Oh, I forgot the fox. Who's surprisingly wise.

I have just one 'but'. Isaac's egg talked (well, grunted, really). Jack's fox was a good deal more talkative and intelligible. (You really do have to read these books to get it!) I think Mr P has covered talking animals and dairy products pretty well now.

Whatever he writes next, though, I'll be snapping it up!

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Small Hours is written in a beautiful, prose type narrative, which is soothing and respectful of the issues featured in the storyline.

The story centres around Jack, a city high- flyer whose world comes crashing around him when the company he works for is sold. To make matters worse his younger sister calls to tell him that his  dad's health is declining and his mum has left  so she is struggling to cope - could he come home? However, his relationship with his Dad is very strained, can he really help at the moment?

We follow him as his mental health goes into crisis and finds himself walking to the park, where he discovers a sick fox. As he helps the fox it discovers thay he can talk to the animal and helps him to focus on what he needs to do next.

This all sounds a bit bizarre but strangely it works for the story! I really enjoyed this book!

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Small Hours is a beautifully written book. It is sensitive, compassionate and empathetic. If you are fascinated about relationships, this novel gets to the heart of family dynamics. A father, a son and a fox are inextricably woven into a journey of discovery of how connection can emerge and be healed. Bobby Palmer has crafted a fascinating masterpiece.

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Thank you so much to Headline for the early copy of this via NetGalley.

I cannot put into words what this book made me feel, what it meant to me and just how good it is. I will try my best in this review but I don’t think my words can do it justice. First off I went into this having loved Isaac and The Egg and was excited to get stuck in but also worried that I had set my expectations unfairly high. It’s safe to say I was blow away to the point of tears towards the end. It’s an absolute emotional roller-coaster and you truly experience the journey of each character in the book. At times I was sad, at times happy and always so engrossed in this truly brilliant story. Jack, Charlotte, Gerry and Hazel are all great characters and you cannot help but be drawn into all their own journeys and the emotions that they must be feeling. The fox is also a star and I loved the connection to animals through out. Everything in the book is there for a reason with everything being so cleverly implemented by a very gifted author. Bobby Palmer is such a fantastic and creative writer, and I can’t thank him enough for writing this truly wonderful story.

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Jack, our unlikely hero, has just lost his job in the city when he stumbles upon an injured fox who changes his life.
His sister, who is angry with him, contacts him to tell him that his mother has gone missing; he returns home to find that his father has dementia. Lost to himself and his family, Jack feels that his life is falling apart but his chance meeting with the fox is about to change that. We are invited to join Jack on his journey as he rebuilds his life and rediscovers what is important to him. This is a powerful, emotional story told through rich prose. Having enjoyed Isaac and the Egg, I wasn't sure that a second novel could live up to this - I was wrong!

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Absolutely beautiful writing - the occasional phrase would stop me in my tracks, needing a moment to reread and enjoy.

A wonderful story about a man coming to know himself, his family, and a fox.

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When I read Isaac & the Egg, Bobby Palmers debut novel, I knew instantly I'd come across a new favourite author. Reading Small Hours 100% confirms that.

You know that feeling where you can feel tears coming.. in the back of your throat, that ache in your chest, that's how this book made me feel. I was right there in the midst of this family lost in the woods looking for Gerry. 😢

It was hard not to dislike Jack initially but as I continued to read I met a different side to him, the side he had shut away and ran away from. Hazel and Gerrys love story was amazing and you could just tell through the words how much they doted on each other. All the characters were portrayed beautifully, the relationships complicated but clearly full of so much love.

Bobby Palmer is a true creative genius as we're transported from the city to the country. The use of the descriptions throughout made me feel, hear and see everything so clearly, I could picture the story as if I was watching a movie. This is going to be one of those books I wish I could read again as if I'd never read it before.

A truly heartfelt and delicate novel that will gave me all the feels. I highly recommend this book to all my friends.

A huge thank you to Bobby Palmer for creating this work of written art. Also thank you to Netgalley for a much appreciated Arc.

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It took time to get into this book but when I did I loved it. It's a story of family dynamics; love, loss, re evaluating and looking back at what changed the characters along the way. And then there's the fox! Definitely recommend this book - thanks to the author, NetGalley and publisher for the preview copy.

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I got on the hype train for Bobby's first book, Isaac and the Egg. It wasn't like anything I had read before and at times, just outrageously peculiar. But there was no denying his ability to write, and his ability to perfectly encapsulate raw human emotions, grief especially. And so I was right up there at the front of the queue with this one.

What I have noticed about Bobby's writing over these two books, is he doesn't just write a sentence as it is. It's not just words on a page. Each word is thought about in the wider context, honed to perfection, which means every sentence tells of an emotion and a feeling as well as what it actually is saying. Which means his writing reads like poetry, it ebbs and flows and is a joy to read.

He takes every raw human emotion - grief, loss, sadness, stress - emotions that we aren't always good at voicing, and managers to describe them 100% correctly, like of course that's how it feels, it can't possibly be any other way. He voices the words in your heart.

His books are about quite everyday things but with an added bizarre element, and there's almost this musical quality about them. He talks about everything from loss and grief, love, employment issues, anger, aging, health, family, loves and passions, hatreds, and this sense of belonging or not belonging.

It's got a very unique format which I think could have been too much, but he's handled it very well and it really suits the unusual premise. We have the standard main POV which is of Jack, the rambling, seemingly disorganised POV of his father Gerry, and then occasionally the POV of the fox. It sounds bizarre when I write it like that but it really works. It's set mainly in the present, but there are some flashbacks to the past, which threw me at first as it didn't specific that, but once I got into it, it very quickly became the natural way to tell the story, and you get this real understanding of why the characters are the way they are.

I love Bobby's writing about nature. There's so much beauty in the everyday, even in the danger of mother nature, and it's true that we don't always appreciate it. We're stuck in the busy cities, in the rat-race, going to work, earning money, and we forget about the world around us. But for me, this book is telling you to take a moment, close your eyes, and open up your ears and your soul to everything around you.

It's very...insular. I know there's this whole plot going on and whatnot. But for me, this is all about looking inwards. How are you feeling, how you feel about others, how you see each other and your place in the world, and that creates this sense of wonder in the reader.

Everything about this book, from the mundane to the fantastical, holds this power that really gets to you as you read it. It's less wacky (and I use that word as a positive) than Isaac and the Egg, but no less fabulous and emotive.

I found myself sobbing. At the sad bits yes, but at the beautiful bits too. It is so tender and full of feeling. The love I had for this fictional fox and fictional family - they could be anyone's family, anyone's dad, brother, son. It was just gorgeous.

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The most beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking tale. Gerry’s dementia-type illness is portrayed perceptibly and empathetically and is so close to what I have seen. Bobby Palmer produces magical storytelling, page after page. His first novel is in my top 5 books of all time. Small Hours did not disappoint.


Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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What a beautiful and powerful book!

Isaac and the Egg was one of my book of the year in 2022 and this new novel didn’t disappoint.

Full of wit and emotions, Palmer is such a clever writer, who definitely made me tear up quite a few times!

Embark on this amazing story about one’s journey through life, finding what matters, what was lost, what we didn’t know we needed.

Using a fox this time to help Jack find himself, navigate family, unexpected loss and reconnect with his roots, he’s there to guide him to understand the world around him, the world he left behind and the world he’s about to step in.

As he tries to find his way back, the fox will open his eyes, allow him to find empathy and understand others.

Thanks a lot to Graeme, Headline and NetGalley for the opportunity to read in advance!

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Bobby Palmer has written yet another wonderfully magical book. Small Hours follows Jack Penwick, who returns from his big-city job to his countryside childhood home after his mother goes missing. His father, Gerry, whom he has a awkward relationship with, is suffering from Dementia. This is dealt with beautifully and really depicts the impact of dementia on a person and their family.

The relationship between Jack and his new companion, a talking fox, was a personal highlight of the novel for me. Similar to Isaac and Egg, yet not at all a repeat. Fox enters Jack's life and helps to repair the fractured relationship between Jack and Gerry.

Another highlight was the thread of nature connection throughout this novel. I felt truly connected to the landscapes in this novel, because of Bobby Palmer's beautiful descriptions of the English countryside.

Anyone who was a fan of Isaac and the Egg will also enjoy Small Hours.

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Bobby Palmer has done it again.
The characters within Small Hours are endearing, especially in their imperfections and foibles, which only makes them more human and more believable.
I love how he paints a picture of a ‘normal’ family; sibling rivalries, feeling let down by loved ones, role reversal and how the family copes with that - when parents stop being parents and become children and children become the adults.
Palmer does the extraordinary so well. Seeing the family dynamics from the perspective of Jack, but also from his father’s point of view whilst losing his memory and feeling confused. Also from the perspectiove of the fox who portrays an innocence that is really beautiful, but also with an understanding of humans that helps the reader to step back further and look at things objectively.

What I find really fascinating in this novel, is how Palmer threads several viewpoints throughout, to create an interactive literary experience.
There are poignant moments of conversation, for instance, between Jack and his father, intertwined with thoughts from the fox, as translator and therapist, for the two people who find it hard to express to each other how they are feeling.
Or a few short lines of prose, in italics, dotted throughout the pages, so you could just read those italics as a stand alone version or a declaration of fact, to help the reader stand back and reflect on the overall meaning of what is happening, from both a subjective and objective viewpoint. For me those moments communicate - life is both complex and transparent.
It made the reading so much more 3-dimensional, insightful and captivating.

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This is a tale of love, loss, estrangement, thwarted dreams and new beginnings. Written in a captivating, lyrical style, it seamlessly blends fantasy with reality as it explores the effects of grief and diminishing abilities.

It reveals how the seemingly small hours we spend with loved ones, the time we allow ourselves to truly listen to them, and to become immersed in nature, to heal, is never wasted.

I was entranced by Jack’s growing relationship with the fox and how it’s instrumental in turning things around for him, even if they seem intractable at first.

Particularly moving parts of the book are the sections where the fox or the humans are thinking. They’re depicted in poetic type stanzas, similar to our own choppy thoughts. This technique really brings the immediacy of the inner life to light.

As the book opens, Jack’s feeling lost and hurt, abandoned by his work colleagues. The city’s golden edifice crumbles as he slinks home to rural life in response to an urgent phone call from his sister Charlotte.

Although Jack’s relationship with his father, Gerry, and with Charlotte is distant, they’re temporarily united by the fact that their mother, Hazel, has gone missing.

Parallel with the domestic narrative, filled with awkward conversations and things left unsaid, are the adventures of Hazel as she seeks to fulfil long neglected dreams. Yet home and family still tug at her heartstrings.

Will Hazel stay away? Could Gerry become more unwell and less sure of himself? Can Jack alter his way of living and become reconciled with his family? Only time will tell.

I adored this book and didn’t want it to end. It’s every bit as touching and charming as ‘Isaac and the Egg’ as it explores the joys and sorrows of relationships and the healing power of nature. Grateful thanks to Headline Review and NetGalley for the eARC.

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Bobby Palmer has done it again! A thought provoking, memorable story that tugs at the heartstring.

As a reader, I got the sense that each character has lost their true self in a way. This takes different forms such as burying themselves in work and their own routine, being a dutiful daughter, or in the case of the mother, a previously adventurous women with dreams and ambitions who now has to act as a carer for her husband. In the case of the father, he has developed dementia and his internal and external worlds have become increasingly more confusing and frightening to him. He has also lost the sense of his true self.

Communication is also another key theme as the son doesn't fully know the extent of the troubles at home or that his Mum was planning on disappearing. The daughter also struggles to communicate and hides certain issues from her Brother. Whilst the Father wants to convey what he's thinking and feeling, he can't quite articulate this. The inclusion of the wonderful fox character is both a symbol of the father and sons past and current relationship and in a way acts as a connection between the two. The son has memories of seeing foxes with his Dad in his younger years and as they both here the fox talk at various points, they are able to say what they can't out loud, though the fox.

A hug in a book and a respectful portrayal of dementia and family dynamics.

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Following the success of Isaac and the Egg, Bobby Palmer has done it again with a mixture of magic realism, allegory and the return of the prodigal son. After turning his back on family and a more natural life, for the lure of the city, Jack is called back to face the problems he is running away from. A missing mother, a distant and confused father and an angry sister. They are all in some way struggling with the disappointment of failed dreams, but this is no ordinary family saga, nature speaks to us and the father and son, in a charming and beautifully written way. We know there will be casualties on the way, but who?

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I loved reading this book. It is a beautiful story about loss, redemption, estrangement, but mostly love. Jack has been called home from the city, where he has been living with a job and life that he thought he wanted, but is no longer certain. His sister called him home, as their mother is missing. He navigates the broken relationships with his father and sister, while trying to work out what happened to his mother - all with the unlikely assistance of a fox.

I have so much that I could say about this book but don’t want give anything away. Gerry’s memories have been eluding him recently, and I found his inner monologue moving, poignant, and simultaneously tragic and hopeful. So many of the relationships in the story have been damaged by words unsaid, or things not done - but there is a strong thread of hope and love, and a desire to right wrongs, or at least come to terms with them, that runs throughout the story and binds it together.

As with Bobby Palmers previous book, “Isaac and the Egg”, this story touched me, and will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you #NetGalley and Headline Review for the free review copy of #SmallHours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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This is a really beautifully written book. It really does manage to get to the heart of family life and the complex emotions that exist between family members but despite everything there is always love right at the centre. Jack and his family find it very difficult to communicate with each other getting mixed up in their own feelings and then letting the moment pass but you can strongly feel that there is always love there. The way the fox and nature are used to describe feelings and to bridge the gap between family members is perfectly done. It is a beautiful mix of fable and fairy story. A really emotional read that will stay with me some time,

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I loved Isaac and the Egg and this is, if anything, better. Full of humane warmth, wit and wisdom, Palmer feels like a Matt Haig character - able to distil what makes us tick in new and refreshing ways.

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Having absolutely adored Isaac and the Egg, I was beyond excited for Bobby’s new book, Small Hours. How was he possibly going to follow Egg? What next? Well words aren’t enough to describe this story: beautiful, poignant, lyrical, mesmerising, heartbreakingly tender, just simply stunning.
You really can’t begin to describe the storyline without completely spoiling the magic for a new reader, so I won’t say anything other than that it’s a story of family, of being, of loss , and most importantly of love. It will resonate deeply with so many readers. This is going to be one of those books I’m shouting about to everyone I know. What a triumph! I feel totally bereft now and want to go back to the beginning and read or listen to it again. The books I feel this way about are few and far between, but I know I’ll be back between the pages of this one again.
With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Headline for an arc in exchange for a review.

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I didn't actually believe that Bobby Palmer could write another book as moving and beautiful as Isaac and the Egg but he's certainly done just that with Small Hours.

The story follows the Penwick family at a time of great flux. Jack has just been made redundant and, walking disconsolately around the city, comes across an injured fox. After calling animal protection Jack watches the fox being put into a cage but as the van doors close the fox looks up at him and says "Thankyou".

Just when you think things couldn't be more surprising Jack gets a phone call from his sister to say that their mum has disappeared. Jack, who has been avoiding his childhood home for many years, knows he can't put it off any longer.

He finds Charlotte caring for a father who was other-worldly when Jack was a child but is now clearly suffering with some form of dementia and their mother gone.
Charlotte doesn't know where and his father, Gerry, is sure he does but cannot remember. It's up to Jack to reconnect with the woodland where they live and with his father so they can find his mother and be at peace with himself.

I've often wondered why certain books speak to you. Isaac and the Egg resonated in a way that nothing else for many years and Small Hours creates a similar stunning world for readers. There's a tinge of magic - not just in the landscape but the people and animals. Foxes are obviously able to speak. Just look at them! They feature heavily in our myth/folklore and that of other countries.

What Bobby Palmer does so brilliantly is bring this tiny corner of the world to life. I could see everything in this book so clearly. It is funny and witty and heartbreakingly sad in parts. Can you tell I'm somewhat besotted? Well I am.

Thoroughly well worth the wait. I can hardly wait for what comes next from Bobby Palmer's imagination. Very highly recommended and if you've not read his debut, Isaac and the Egg, then you must.

Thankyou very much to Headline Publishing for the pre-approved copy. You've made my year.

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A solid 5* read! Written from three perspectives - the fox in the wild; the background and dynamics of the Penwick family; and Gerry's state of mind as he battles with dementia. A character driven tale beautifully written. I will be buying my own copy and I will be reading this story again. The characters and their dilemmas will stay with me for some time to come.
I will be telling everyone I know to read this wonderful book.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Bobby Palmer/Headline for a digital copy of this title.

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I loved Isaac and The Egg, so was very excited to receive an ARC of this from Net Galley.
Bobby Palmer is clearly a very talented writer. His use of language is careful and considered and he’s created a wonderful, layered story.
Jack Penwick has lost his job in the city, he didn’t see it coming. He then has a strange encounter with an injured fox, which he rescues, which sets off a chain of events which sees him return to his childhood home where the fox reappears, and is able to talk to him. Jack’s mum has gone missing, his sister has abandoned her plans for university to look after their dad, who has Alzheimer’s. It’s clear that Jack has lost his sense of connection; to his dad, to his sister and to the lovely countryside where he grew up. With the help of the fox, maybe all is not lost?
A lovely exploration of what should have meaning in a person’s life.

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Bobby Palmer's done it again, this book was emotional, captivating and beautifully written. I tried not to compare it too much to Isaac and the Egg as they're completely separate books, but I did find myself recognising the same descriptive language that pulled me in so much to Bobby Palmer's debut novel. As a city dweller myself, Small Hours held up a mirror to my lifestyle and made me really aware of my disconnect with nature, and I really appreciate the level of research that went into that aspect of this book as it's definitely encouraged me to get outside more. Overall it was a really engaging, heartwarming read and I would absolutely recommend it.

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I was delighted when I saw that Bobby Palmer had written a second book, as Isaac and the Egg was definitely one of my favourite books of 2022. I then delayed reading it as I was concerned it may not live up to my expectations; but I need not have worried, it was every bit as brilliant as I had hoped!
Small Hours is about Jack, his family and a fox. Jack returns to his family home in the country when he receives a telephone call from his sister, Charlotte, to say that their mother, Hazel, is missing. Jack is reluctant to return home, it will be his first visit for many years. He has a difficult relationship with his father, Gerry, who now has problems with his memory. Jack returns and realises the full extent of the problems. How will matters progress? Just where does the talking fox fit in? Will Jack be able to smooth matters over with his father before it is too late? Will Hazel be found?
Another excellent and beautiful book by Bobby Palmer. If you liked Isaac and the Egg, or if you’re new to this author, buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I enjoyed Isaac and The Egg when it was released last year and so was delighted to be approved for a digital ARC of Small Hours. Jack is a young man who has lost his job and sense of reason in the big city and whilst taking an urgent phone call from his sister, he finds an injured fox that he helps. This fox turns out to be incredibly important to him on his return to the family home in a small village. Jack discovers that his mother Hazel has gone missing and that his father Gerry is struggling with declining memory loss. And then there’s his somewhat disgruntled sister Charlotte, trying to hold things together. Jack and Gerry have drifted apart over the years and both struggle being thrown together again. However, they both have their memories of their younger days and the times they spent in nature in the Small Hours of morning daybreak.
This is an incredibly beautifully written story. We have several voices in this book- Gerry’s trying to make sense of the world, Jack’s, a young man trying to find his way and the incredible fox, who is really central to the story. At the heart is family dynamics, identity, love and loss- how parents change with the arrival of children, how your relationship changes with your family over time and you deal with a parent who has declining memory loss. This is all handled so sensitively that it was really poignant.
Mention is also due for the picturesque descriptions of the English countryside and nature. Palmer had done a lot of research to detail this so intricately and it really helped to create a strong visual image.
I think Palmer has really shown his versatility as a writer with this novel and I look forward to what he chooses to write about next.

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Living in London and freshly unemployed, Jack is called back to his rural family home to help with a
family crisis. What follows is a story that magnifies the bittersweet emotions that can arise from being a
son, daughter, sibling, child and parent, and also who we are outside of those labels.

From the off, this seems a more accessible story than in Palmer's book, 'Isaac and the Egg', as a talking
fox seems less of an imaginative leap than the unusual character we met in his debut novel. The
emotions he manages to evoke in his reader this time around are no less powerful, however.

The skill of Palmer's writing is that you don't necessarily have to had the same experiences as Jack to
really feel for him and his family members as their stories are told. The device of a talking fox gives the
book a much appreciated lift, providing some comic relief amongst the heavier topics the book deals

This is another brilliant, completely emotive novel from Palmer. His ability to combine the devastating
with the comical and absurd is unsurpassed.

With thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the advance copy of 'Small Hours' on which this
review is based.

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Bobby Palmer has done it again; after the stunning and original Isaac and the Egg we now have Small Hours, a story of how a family reconnects over a few days with help from a very special fox.

Jack is an introverted workaholic who has deliberately disconnected from his family after his father withdrew his affection in his teens, following the death of his brother.
One traumatic and bizarre day when he loses his job, rescues a fox and then hears the fox speaking to him, things become even more awful when his sister calls to say his mother has gone missing.
Reluctantly returning to the family’s country home, he has to face his father’s dementia and his sister’s anger at his desertion. Even worse, no one knows where his mother is. Somehow the family needs to bond again, and his fox has followed him to try and help.
This book is so beautifully written, the description of the country and the animals are incredibly evocative. The fox is an extraordinary creature, and gives the book a unique centre. The simmering anger from all members of the family is brilliantly written - you can emphasise with them all. Several chapters are written from the point of view of Gerald as he battles with dementia. The frustrations of his inability to communicate and memory lapses are portrayed with great sensitivity.
This is an incredible book - it’s sad, charming, uplifting and witty all at the same time, I can’t imagine a single person that wouldn’t get something from it.

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Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes and really take in what I've just read.

Small Hours, written is the follow up book to the brilliant Isaac and the Egg and is nothing short of breathtaking. The descriptions of the British countryside, the woods and the animals are so beautifully written I felt transported there. The characters, all troubled, are full formed people in my head and I'm going to miss them so much.

And the fox. The fox! I can't even.....

Small Hours is going to the top of my favourite read of 2024 list so far and is really high up in my favourite reads of all time. Bobby Palmer is such a talent. The way he represented the muddled thoughts of a man whose memories are fading was frankly remarkable. I really felt the loss and got a sense of perspective of what somebody having to deal with that must go through. Truly heartbreaking.

Occasionally I get a book hangover and need to think for a spell before I pick my next read and this is one of those moments. It was written so thoughtfully, so nuanced in style, each word picked carefully and perfectly. I'm in love with these characters, their home and their location.

Finally, I just have to mention the book cover, which is absolutely stunning.

Thanks to Headline & Netgalley for providing an e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Will be getting a print copy of this for my collection.

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In his follow up to Isaac and the Egg, Bobby Palmer has given us another little slice of magic. Small Hours takes a dejected and insular protagonist, adds a talking fox, and weaves them together into a beautiful story about redemption, sacrifice and the complexities of love. His unique style that we saw in his debut novel endures through this one, proving that he can turn the weirdest ideas* into works of art. At once thoughtful, and whimsical, this book was truly a joy to read. I already can’t wait for Bobby Palmer’s third novel!

*his words, not mine! (in the acknowledgments)

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When I heard that this book featured a talking fox I was worried it might have been one of those stories that starts off okay and then goes off on a really weird and confusing tangent, but how wrong I was to think that! Oh my word, what an AMAZING story! This is my new favourite book. I loved how unique this story was and the delicate way it dealt with grief, friendship, reflection, putting pieces back together again, and stressful things that families go through as parents grow older. I really enjoyed the moments of humour as well. This book will stay with me for a long, long time. stunning.

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Bobby Palmer is a beautiful human! Hugely talented and back with another gorgeous gem. I didn’t think Bobby could beat Isaac and the Egg with any book but this has definitely done that.

This is just completely brilliant. I am in awe of Bobby’s writing. It just flows so effortlessly and beautifully. You can’t help but be pulled into the story and love everything about it!

The characters in this book have really stayed with me. I feel like they are imprinted on my heart after reading this gorgeous gem. Jack, Hazel and Gerry have made this a great read and on occasions, made me very emotional.

Palmer is able to allow the reader to see inside the complex relationships of the characters whilst developing them with compassion, you can’t help but become invested in them.

This is an author who writes exquisitely. I loved everything about this gem. There are so many elements in this, you really become torn between devouring and wanting to savour every last word.

Bobby Palmer is just brilliant. This is a book worthy of all the praise and all the stars. No written review can do this justice. This is brilliant and should be on everyone’s TBR.

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Small Hours by Bobby Palmer

On the day Jack loses his job he encounters an injured fox who appears to speak to him. He returns to the family home he's been avoiding for years after receiving a call from his sister Charlotte telling him their Mum is missing. Jack finds all is not well with his Dad either. Can insight from the fox and a near disaster bring Jack and his Dad back together after all this time?

I'm struggling to describe this book in any way that conveys just how brilliant it is! The writing is sublime and the insights into human nature, the natural world, family relationships and so many other things is fabulous. I read it in one go and absolutely loved it. Very VERY highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.

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