Post Script: The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

The Farm

The Farm

Tom Rob Smith

Simon &Schuster

A CBS Company

ISBN: 9781847375704

 

 

 

Description:

Until the moment he received a frantic call from his father, Daniel believed his parents were headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement. They had sold their home and business in London, and said “farewell to England” with a cheerful party where all their friends had gathered to wish them well on their great adventure: setting off to begin life anew on a remote, bucolic farm in rural Sweden.

 

But with that phone call, everything changes. Your mother’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things–terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and has been committed to a mental hospital.

 

Daniel prepares to rush to Sweden, on the first available flight the next day. Before he can board the plane, his father contacts him again with even more frightening news: his mother has been released from the hospital, and he doesn’t know where she is.

 

Then, he hears from his mother:

 

I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police. I’m about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow.

 

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a horrible crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

 

 

My View:

This was a very compelling and thought provoking read that defies you to place it in a neat  box – it is part psychological thriller, it is part contemporary fiction, part crime fiction.  Time wise it defies you to tie it down to just one point of reference; it is about the present, it is about the immediate past (the past few months) and it is about a life time ago; 1963 when Daniel’s mother was a sixteen year old girl. Settings swap between rural Sweden and busy London. This is a difficult read to categorise and that adds to its charm.

 

This novel will have you questioning everything you  think know about self,  family, personal history… of memories, whose version of our life do we carry with us? What lies do we live with and do we tell? This is an intriguing narrative. When there is conflict/relationship break down in a family whose side do we chose? Indeed do we need to choose? In this instance it is apparent that we need to, or rather Daniel needs to, and his mother says she will disown him if he does not commit fully to her story.  She is unbending – it is an all or nothing decision.  How often do we hear this story in family breakdowns? How do the children ( even an adult child in this case) cope?

 

This is a complex novel that picks at an emotional scab revealing new wounds and old scars. Gender discrimination and power imbalances are laid open. Bullying, in the home, the community and in the vestibules of all places of male dominated infrastructure / hierarchies are laid bare for all to examine or at least to acknowledge. The issue of sexual abuse is eventually teased out into the open. This is a very intense read.

 

And lastly we but not least we get to inspect and consider the issues of mental health from a victims perspective; how the sins of the past affect the present and how small mental injuries – social snubs, gossip, exclusive behaviours, conjure up sinister intent. The signs are all around us if we want to read them.

 

And this is a well written, tightly constructed novel that is not without hope. A compelling read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One

Jojo Moyes

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780718177003

 

Description:

Suppose your life sucks. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your stepson is being bullied and your daughter has a once in a lifetime opportunity . . . that you can’t afford to pay for.

So imagine you found and kept some money that didn’t belong to you, knowing it would pay for your daughter’s happiness.

But how do you cope with the shame? Especially when the man you’ve lied to decides to help you out in your hour of need . . .

Jess is in hell – Ed has saved her family – but is their happiness worth a lifetime’s soul-searching?

My View:

I haven’t read a book by Jojo Moyes before so reading this book was  a bit like  making a cake  without the recipe in front of you – you have an idea of what you might be tasting, what the finished product will be like; you have a lot of ingredients, you know basically what you need to put in – a bit of drama, a bit of hope, and separated mum who loses her job, add more drama, add  a couple of loving quirky kids trying to find their  way, add a handsome single guy in lots of trouble, and a farty dog , mix the lot together is a big pan ( or small car in this  case) and cook.  What you end up with is a multi-layered extravaganza that is delicious, beguiling and satisfying.

Must be read with a glass of chocolate port and a wedge of chocolate cake.

Post Script: The Woman Before Me: Ruth Dugdall

The Woman Before Me

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press

ISBN: 9781909593619

Description:

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and the Luke Bitmead Bursary

Shortlisted for The New Angle Book Prize, The People’s Book Prize and the Brit Writer’s Novel Award.

 

‘They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.’

Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her is Emma Hatcher, who’s just given birth to Luke. Joel dies and Luke is thriving, until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.

Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so… by what means?

My View:

This is a haunting story of obsession, birth and murder and the consequences of said behaviours. This is the type of book that once you have read it; it sits with you, teasing your memories, challenging your ethics, ideals and questions “what would you do in this position?”

This is an interesting narrative; before we have even turned the first page we know that 1 baby dies in hospital and one has died in a tragedy, that Rose Wilks has been charged and found guilty of the death of baby Luke and that she is in gaol awaiting possible release on parole. Here we meet probation officer Cate who has the unenviable task of determining if Rose is suitable for early release.  And this is where our story actually starts.

This is a story of the everyday, by that I mean the language is simple, cleanly written, neat and precise. The story sits quietly on the page, daringly revealing the truth word by word, entry by entry in Rose’s diary. In this narrative we have the alternating perspectives of Cate and Rose to guide the reader.

Dugdall is excellent in creating mood and setting. I found the prison settings, inmates and guards disquieting. I did not however find any of the characters particularly inviting or endearing. I did find the story particularly sad and the twist in the tail will surprise many.  I wonder what Ms Dugdall will come with in her next book?

Post Script: My Dearest Jonah – Matthew Crow

In words hide secrets…

My Dearest Jonah

Matthew Crow

Legend Press

ISBN: 9781908248251

 

Description:

Like you I’ve been feeling forlorn of late. I don’t know how long you have to be somewhere before it begins to feel normal, before you start to feel as though you belong… And so all I have is you. Your letters and the thought that somewhere, something good exists in my life. For now that seems enough to get by on.’

Introduced via a pen-pal scheme, Verity and Jonah write their lives, hopes and dreams to one another without ever having met.

Verity is a fragile beauty. When a dangerous sequence of events is set in motion, she tries to explain to Jonah what led her to unravel so spectacularly. Jonah has been released after years of imprisonment and embarks upon the quiet life he’s always wanted. But then a dark reminder shatters his world, one that’s keen to make history repeat itself.

Offering the sole strand of stability in two progressively elaborate lives, Verity and Jonah develop a deep and delicate love, a love that becomes clouded and threatened by increasingly dark forces.

My View:

This is superbly crafted and elegantly written narrative that uses the device of letter writing to explore the lives and perspectives of the two main characters – Verity and Jonah. Verity and Jonah have never physically met yet share a camaraderie and friendship based on loneliness and their individual strange circumstances; a supportive alliance is formed, perhaps even love?

I loved that the letter writing device maintained and disclosed the details two very different lives. The reader dangles on the hook, lusting for more details of the main characters lives as the tension is built. And what interesting characters they both are – I felt a sense of admiration for Jonah and the apparent efforts he was making to live a good life – silly me! How I was conned. (But no spoilers here) Verity was not quite as endearing, perhaps a little distant and not quite so engaging but as a character she allowed me a glimpse of a life that was strong, passionate, independent and courageous. She dared to live! She dared to dream, she was honest about herself, her life and her lifestyle. This character was quite a remarkable woman.

I found the writing itself almost lyrical, elegant and often caught myself almost reading the letters out loud – I think this would really be a wonderful experience – a stage /radio show perhaps? The language itself was interesting – often contradicting the academic and socio economic levels of the characters – again I found this deliberate playing with language attractive and entertaining.

Throughout this narrative Matthew Crow displays an uncanny power of observation and understanding of the world and how it revolves. The writing is powerful and sensitive; the almost formal style of letter writing is particular engaging; the reader is often caught unawares when an expletive or action emerges that shocks as it does not fit this formal, genteel approach which is the style of the bulk of the letters. Perhaps this is Crow hinting that all is perhaps not quite as it seems on paper, hinting that we should be more observant and less reliant of the written word?  I admire Crow’s use of language and the spectacular way the story unravels and turns the narrative on its head. This was a delight to read.