Book review – Random Observations

Random Observations cover. Shows sepia photo of woman and boy.One afternoon in September, a slim envelope was pushed through my door. It contained a book with a title but no indication of the authors, and 32 pages of text interspersed with curious images.

Random Observations begins with a foreword that encompasses in two pages a rescue from a crevasse and a devastating marital rift, plus an introduction to Nevil Short, the apparent author of this work. What follows are snippets of klutz – a spaceship gone awry, a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her child, Short, looking on. Our narrators vary from Short himself at various points in his life to Xyllophital, aka Colin, the extraterrestrial who accidentally kidnaps a human. Oh, and then there’s Inky the dog, who gets a chapter all of his own.

Often the people stepping into the spotlight seem incidental to Short’s central tale, but as he explains in his introduction: “The notes below have been painstakingly compiled through my lifetime’s association with persons of a perplexed disposition.”

The word choices are precise and illuminating – how lovely that Short’s focus in on people (including patients) who are ‘perplexed’ rather than far more negative ‘deranged’ or ‘damaged’.

Chapter titles are the names of the people sharing their thoughts in a pleasingly anecdotal tone that often made me feel I’d got into conversation with a stranger at a bus stop. The prose is crisp and matter-of-fact enough to make the most outlandish scenarios feel commonplace, while the accompanying images add rich visual layers of cohesion and comprehension.

In Mrs M’s chapter, she notes of her deceased Ralph: “It wasn’t till he died I realised his chair had died with him. I bought a new recliner with the life insurance but it isn’t the same.”

As someone who habitually seeks out the extraordinary within the ordinary, this gem delighted me. The authors have a wonderful talent for dialogue that feels so naturalistic it’s as though it’s been overheard and recorded verbatim.

In fact, this is the work of Louise Gethin and Dave Peak, the creator of Short and his cast of characters. Curiosity impelled me to get in touch and ask the following questions, which they kindly answered.

How did the pair of you come to begin this project together?

While experimenting with several small projects to keep our sanity during the various lockdowns, Random Observations evolved from a comic fiction piece written from different points of view.

How did it take shape? 

It developed weekly, session by session. Once the bulk of the idea had been formed, we then worked on it word by word mercilessly. A rule for our joint projects is that we don’t proceed with any particular word unless we both agree to it. The combination of the text, images and section titles of Random Observations is intended to enhance meaning and help the reader ‘solve’ the content.

Did you each write separate sections or work on chapters together?

Everything was written together via Skype.

Do you have a favourite character? Why?

Dave’s favourite character is Mrs M. He identifies with her ‘Beryl Cook’ian view of the world.

Louise loves the Colin section for its particular sense of fun.

With poetic prose and a touch of thought-provoking absurdity, Random Observations earns a place on your bookshelf. Perfect if you’re seeking something a bit different.

Digital copies of Random Observations are available to buy here for £3.99.

Print copies are available to buy for £4.99 including post and packaging by contacting Louise at

You can find out more at

I was given this book in exchange for a fair review.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley (at)