“Elspeth Howell was a sinner,”
I found this book in a reduced section of a bookshop and it looked interesting, so I gave it a read.
This book looked to be quite gripping from the start and for a debut novel it was quite good. However, I feel like the second half of the book was weakest because a great deal of the momentum was lost with the introduction of characters whose addition was supposed to be important to the plot and yet somehow felt meaningless.
Simply put, this book could be described as a coming of age story for the main male protagonist, Caleb. He has to come of age in a very ramshackle town following a family tragedy which takes from him all that he holds dear and robs him of his rudimentary childish innocence.
This book gave me an encroaching feeling of dread which was good because the underlying threat of the story felt very real. It also showed gender issues around survival in a cutthroat town during the last years of the 19th century, as well as questioning a woman’s role as more than just a wife and producer of children. However, at the same time with the sudden introduction of characters as mentioned earlier, their narrative arcs didn’t really interest me and I felt as if the thrust of the book itself was lost along the way.
However, I by no means hated this book. It’s good to see a debut novel which is full of tension and readable, set across a bleak landscape and its good to have an ending where everyone doesn’t end up with their happy ever after, although it seems to be left up to the interpretation of the audience as to exactly what happens.
MY RATING: ***.5 / *****