Barker wrote the 'Ghost Road' trilogy and this book also links to the First World War. As Nick's grandad, Geordie, dies aged 101, Nick cares for him and tries to simultaneously cope with the demands of a dysfunctional reconstructed family: his daughter Miranda who is staying with him as respite from her mentally unwell mother, his pregnant wife Fran, their son 2 year old Jasper and Fran's elder son, Gareth, who is a very moody eleven year old. Their new house is an old Victorian mansion: as they are redecorating they uncover a spitefully obscene portrait of the previous owners hidden under the wallpaper.
This book crackles with tension. Ghosts appear and the truly unpleasant Gareth develops murderous tendencies. But it is never less than honest. The characters are three-dimensional: Gareth is scared stiff about his new school and worried that he will be victimised if he wears regulation school shoes. The horrid details of the progress of Geordie's death are told with brutal clarity and honesty. Dialogue is fresh and convincing.
This is a tale of the human condition. It is about growing up and getting old and dying. It is about the divided loves and loyalties within the heart of every family: when he returns from the first world war after his elder brother died at the Somme, Geordie's mother tells him that the wrong one came back. Gareth bullies and is buliied; he is both obnoxious and vulnerable. Miranda knows that she must behave like a girl, helping her step-mother to look after Jasper, but at the same time she resents it.
This book had a single fault: it was too short and I WANT A SEQUEL.
Brilliant. December 2013; 278 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57