Derek Johns

Published: 4 May 2009
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781846271366


It is 1968, and Billy Palmer has dropped out of university and left the West Country behind. He is determined to go to Marrakesh and find himself, but his first stop must be London. When he arrives, Billy takes a cramped room in a boarding house and talks his way into a job at a bookshop, and then begins to explore the streets of Soho, where the political protests and pretty girls swirl about him. But even as he is caught up in the music and the parties, Billy is dreaming of a bigger adventure and plotting his escape to Morocco, with its snake charmers and storytellers and its vast golden deserts, where anything is possible and where his life will really begin ...

About the author

Image of Derek Johns

Derek Johns has been a bookseller, editor and publisher and now works as a literary agent in London. More about the author


‘[A] largely successful evocation of the period’ Nick Rennison



Wakening is one of those coming-of-age novels with the quiet force of memoir: moments of awkwardness captured in aching detail; snatches of dialogue with freshness and authenticity ... Johns is an undemonstrative but vivid storyteller, with his finger on the pulse of the quiet passions that animate ordinary lives’ David Robson

Wakening is written in a deceptively simple style, unvarnished and unadorned, but always resonating with a true sense of time, place and experience’ Dermot Bolger

‘A vivid storyteller, Johns is a master of simple observation, capturing the flavour of the times with tenderness and precision. Wakening is a coming-of-age novel with the force of memoir: moments of awkwardness captured in aching detail; snatches of dialogue with freshness and authenticity ... beautifully rendered’

‘An account of the shattering yet liberating effect that wanderlust can have on a young life ... it is hard not to feel a slow creep of affection for the protagonist, or to feel pleasure in the way he accomplishes his goals towards the end of the book’ William Sutcliffe

‘An endearing account of the long pilgrimage to adulthood’

‘Derek Johns has a wonderful economy of style and can transport the reader with a very few deft phrases and the result is a charming study of a young man's salad days with the promise of more adventures to come’

‘Extraordinarily vivid’

‘It summons up those times so sharply. It's like looking through the clearest glass - nothing is distorted but everything appears even more real and brilliant’ Helen Dunmore

‘It's an elegant, accurate and heartfelt novel’

‘Johns' style is delightfully simple, which makes for an enticing coming-of-age novel’

‘The novel's sense of place is strong and authentic’

‘The strength of Wakening lies in the fact that its epiphanies are small and therefore utterly believable’ Isobel Montgomery

‘This clear-eyed novel about coming of age in the 60s makes the most hyped decade of the century seem fabulous again’ Daisy Goodwin

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