Trying to get the show back on the road at Random having spent the last few days hunkered down and feeling a bit miz; pouring with rain and grey and ghastly all weekend which did not help. Monday today and the sun is shining, naturally...
OK I am having to blitz my reviews and am doubling up in some cases and the two books I am mentioning today have a link which makes it easier. The Good Father by Noah Hawley and Spilled Blood by Brian Freeman both deal with parents whose child has been accused of murder. Of course it is natural when we read the papers and there is some dreadful crime to feel for the victim's parents and this is right and proper, but there is the odd case when I do wonder how the parents of the accused feel. I am sure there are many cases where it is clear that the person in the dock has come from a broken home, or had an abusive childhood or who has got caught up in the gang culture, and precious little sympathy is wasted on the families. Where we do wonder is in the case of the accused coming from a privileged or comfortable background, a good school, good parenting, lots of love and a happy childhood and the question of Why comes to the fore. The bewilderment and shock of this seemingly out of character crime is clear when we see the faces of the parents who, no doubt, have done the best they can and now feel incredibly guilty.
Anyway, forgive the long ramble, and let's get to the books: the Good Father is Dr Paul Allen. He is married to his second wife and has a comfortable settled life with her and his children. All is serenity and contentment until there is a knock on his door one night and he is told that his son Daniel, from his first marriage, has shot and killed a hugely popular presidential candidate. Immediate reaction is that this is a ghastly mistake - Daniel has always been a quiet and well behaved boy and he sets off to discover how his son lived his life and why, seemingly, he has turned into a murderer. And, of course, the first thing he asks himself Was I a bad father?
"He was a smart kid. He had a good handshake and a ready smile, and he was strong where it mattered. I've known a lot of men in my life and your son struck me as one of the better ones" Outside I climbed into my rental car and fumbled for the keys. Tears were pouring down my face and it was all I could do to put the car in gear and drive away..........."
A rather moving book about one father's personal search into his own life to see if things could have been different. Elegant, clear writing and nothing sensationalist about it.
Brian Freeman -Spilled blood is totally different. One night three teenage girls meet in a ghost town and become involved in a terrifying game of Russian Roulette. By morning one of them is dead and the other is in jail. Olivia Hawk says she did not kill Ashlyn Steele but nobody believes her. Ashlynn is the spoiled daughter of Florian Steel owner of a local chemical research centre in St Croix. There have been several deaths from cancer since this facility opened and the people of Barron, a nearby town, are involved in a bitter feud with the other town. Olivia's parents are separated when her mother decided to return to her home town and become involved in the community, but her father, Chris Hawk who is an attorney from the city, rides to the rescue.
Ok no prizes for guessing that there is a cover up and that the research centre is breaching safety guidelines all in the cause of profit. The characters in this book are drawn with very broad brush strokes indeed and though it ends in a huge climax: dam bursting, water flooding the towns, death and destruction it was a tad predictable. The writing is a bit more Grisham like than I care for and some of the prose is positively purple. Lots of action and pace but, on balance, I preferred the Hawley book.
In these books, one child is innocent, one is guilty but am not going to tell you which.
When reading these titles I could not help but think about We Must Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver which I read with horror a few years ago. Excellent book but I had a hard job finishing it. Kevin was a difficult baby and grew up into a difficult and manipulative child. His mother found herself disliking him intensely and later when he committed his dreadful crime, it was clear that he was doing it to get her attention and her guilt was enormous. She is shunned by the parents of the children he killed in his rampage through the school but feels this being despised and hated is a price worth paying as she realises that, despite it all, she finally loves Kevin. This is the chilling ending of the book and I remember thinking How Could She? Impossible to put oneself in her shoes.
Reading the Shriver book recalled a time when I had a friend who had a little boy a few months before Kathryn was born. We had met at ante-natal clinic and became friends and we used to visit each other regularly. Difficult to explain my feelings here, but I really disliked her baby. I mean how can you dislike a baby, but there was something about him that was hard to love. He would look at me in a very adult way almost as if to say I know you don't like me and I don't like you either. You may think I am being fanciful but it got worse not better, though I tried my best to talk and chat and play with him but I found him impossible to get on with and his mother was having trouble with his tantrums and tempers. I noticed that Kathryn did not like being with him much and one day, when they were both about 18 months old, we were in the garden and I turned my back for a moment and when I turned round he had got hold of Kathryn and was just about to bash her head on the path. I let out a shriek, grabbed him by his hair and yanked him back, and swept a howling Kathryn up in my arms. His mother rushed out and accused me of hurting her child and hurled a stream of abuse at me and held him tight. All the time this upset was going on that boy was looking steadily at me and I did not like what I saw in his face. I put Kathryn in her buggy, left the house and that was the end of that friendship.
I heard that she had another baby, a little girl, a year later and then she and her husband returned to Ireland to be with her family. I sometimes wonder why as I am certain that my erstwhile friend was just as worried about her son as I was.
All in my mind? I don't know but I wasn't going to risk it....
Blimey, this is a pretty scary post - Sorry!