Friday, January 9, 2015

A Short Review of The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

The first book that I finished in the 2015 was The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. There are all sorts of good things about this thriller – the writing is spare and matches the chilly Swedish setting; the plot moves along quickly; there’s suspense, but it’s not gruesome or scary. I was looking for a quick, fun read, and in most ways, this book satisfied me. (I will say, however, that The Farm made me scream at the end, and not in a good way.  The “reveal” of the mystery involves a plot device that makes me crazy.)

The premise is that an adult son receives a call from his father saying that his mother is psychotic, delusional, and possibly violent. When the mother arrives on the son’s doorstep, she contends that his father is a liar and not to be trusted. The novel follows the son as he tries to figure out the truth about his parents and as he decides which one to believe. The question at the center is how well a person can really know his family members.

Reading this book reminded me a bit of reading Before I GoTo Sleep by S.J. Watson. 

In that novel, the narrator has amnesia after a major event and is trying to uncover what happened. She finds her old journal, which contains a note in her own handwriting telling her to distrust her husband.  But she wakes up every day having no memories once again, being cared for by the husband she can’t remember. The “thrill” in both of these books lies in trying to figure out which character is unreliable.

The author claims that this story derives from a real experience with his parents (though I hope the resolution is not true. Gah.). Here’s an interview where he discusses the line between his truth and fiction. And here’s the original essay he wrote about his parents in the London Times.

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