A Hundred Words for Love is the sequel to the beautiful Team Viking – James Rowland’s moving story of his friend’s Viking funeral. It features some of the same characters and is presented in the same simple and direct manner. Rowland himself is an accomplished writer and storyteller and has a real talent for connecting with his audience, so it has all the ingredients for success. But it seems to suffer from second album syndrome. This time, the magic simply isn’t there.
The comparison with Team Viking is both invited by Rowland and unavoidable. Whereas that was a quirky tale about a very unusual set of circumstances, this is little more than a straightforward boy-meets-girl/girl-breaks-up-with-boy story. And in contrast to the colourful inhabitants of Team Viking, Rowland decides to tell us very little about ‘the girl’ (we are not even allowed to know her name) and focuses instead on the various ways in which he (unwittingly) sabotaged their relationship. In doing so, he presents himself not as a devoted friend, willing to undertake all sorts of ridiculous risks to fulfil a promise (Team Viking again) but as a rather immature hedonist who feels deeply but can’t communicate. And all this contributes to the sad fact that, in the end, we are simply not given enough to make us care.
There are glimpses of vintage Rowland in some beautifully written, insightful and very funny moments, and the characterisation of his friend’s grandmother is utterly delightful. And Rowland himself is thoroughly engaging, exuding charm and energy. But it’s just not enough, and I am left with a sense of something that is trying to be a crowd-pleaser but ultimately lacks a soul.