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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

Sunday, 15 June 2014

"The Farm" by Tom Rob Smith

This is a new book by the author of the Leo Demidov trilogy: Child 44, The Secret Speech, and Agent 6.

Daniel's parents have retired to a remote farm in Sweden. One day his father phones him claiming that his mother is mentally ill. Then his mother arrives in London, claiming that his father is a co-conspirator in a series of unspecified crimes. Then his father arrives in London in pursuit. Daniel must listen to his mother's story, consider her evidence and decide whether to believe her and go to the police, or to believe his father and take his mother to a mental hospital.

This is a brilliant conception. Daniel's mother slowly narrates the chain of events that led her to her conclusions. This keeps you reading because of the many hints of dreadful things. Many of the things that happened to Daniel's mum (Tilde) in her summer on the farm are humdrum and even the way she interprets them is modest. It is sometimes difficult to see how such wild theories are being built of such mundane evidence. And how is it all connected with the events that led Tilde to run away from her Swedish farm and father back in 1963?

This has all the potential of being a brilliant story and the author tells it well. But the characters are insufficiently realised (much mention is made of Daniel's partner Mark and the hidden gay relationship but not a lot is made out of it) and the sense of menace struggles with the ordinary character of what is being described. This might turn into a brilliant film because the intensity of the narrative frame being in a hotel room in Docklands but the book fails to pull it off. Even the climax is a disappointment.

Because of the claustrophobia inherent in Daniel's dilemma, choosing between a possibly mad mother and a possibly criminal father, I wanted a story with the intensity of grand opera. It rather wimped out on that.

June 2014; 351 pages

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