Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Farm

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (2014)

Daniel's parents have retired to a farm in Sweden, and he has yet to leave London to visit them but imagines them having a relaxed, idyllic life there. One day Daniel's father calls to tell him the sad news that his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. She has been having delusions of persecution and is accusing everyone around her of terrible things. Immediately, Daniel books a flight to Sweden, but before he can leave he receives a second call. It's his mother, telling him she's been released and is on her way to Heathrow, and that everything Daniel's father is saying is a lie. Caught between his parents, Daniel now must decide who to believe and what is the truth.

Most of this novel took place over just a few days, the bulk of it one long conversation between Daniel and his mother as she told the story of everything that happened in the several months since they bought their farm. She has a satchel of evidence, and pulls out each object one by one as she tells Daniel her story. Awkwardly, they are at Daniel's apartment where he lives with another man and he knows it's time to finally reveal this part of his life, but how can he in the midst of such a dramatic, urgent situation? Although Daniel's relationship isn't quite pertinent to the story, it adds an extra layer of tension.

The construction somehow made it easy to just keep going and going - one doesn't want to stop in the middle of a conversation - and I just couldn't put it down. I stayed up past midnight on a work night reading, and that is little short of miraculous because when I read in bed I usually fall asleep after about 5 pages. I also kept expecting things to become clear enough to decide whether or not I believed her story, but Smith didn't make it that easy for me, and that, too, propelled me along. Ultimately, I consumed this book in less than two days.

The descriptions I had read of The Farm were pretty vague, basically what I told you above, and I think it's best to keep it that way. It's all about experiencing the story as Daniel experiences it. I found it completely compelling and satisfying. It would be great for a book group - I'm dying to discuss it with somebody else who has read it!

Tom Rob Smith is an incredibly talented writer, and I've extolled his virtues previously as I read the Child 44 series. While this is a complete departure from that series in both style and content, it only illustrates the range of his talent. I'm eagerly awaiting what he has in store next.

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