Having read so many great things about this novel I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy from the lovely Karen Sullivan at Orenda books.
Andy Boyd is a widower and has been more or less single ever since his wife died in childbirth, instead concentrating on his career in a bank and raising his precious son Pat. That is until Anna moves to town as she is due to start working at the bank. The pair quickly fall in love, and Andy believes he has found someone to share his life with, especially as Anna is so good with Pat. The fairy tale continues and the pair marry but Andy has an accident and ends up in hospital on his wedding night. What happened behind the closed door is quite at odds to the picture that is shown to his family, friends and colleagues.
Yes, this is a story of domestic violence perpetrated against a man, and as such it is an emotional read and without a doubt, a story well-worth telling, especially as Michael Malone does so with eloquence and a healthy dose of realism. The story set in the 1990s gives us a man’s man a rugby player whose physical strength clearly outweighs that of the petite Anna and yet the occasional lashing out becomes something much more ingrained as time goes on and his weakness is his inability to speak out. And this is a man with a fantastic support network of his mother and brother who have been there throughout the black days following his first-wife’s death.
This is a book that is hard to read because this is the truth of many people’s lives and although we have many books that focus on violence against women, in this day and age only a fool would believe that the reverse isn’t possible. That isn’t to say men in the grip of such a situation don’t have the same qualms as Andy does regarding how others would perceive the truth but I do feel that society has come to recognise that women aren’t always the victims and men are not always the aggressors.
The book flows well and I’m glad to report doesn’t relentlessly list one violent event after another, it has the subtlety required to allow the reader to understand why Andy stays with Anna and allows his confidence to be eroded. There is a matter of some dodgy goings on at the bank which gives us a chance to marvel at the author’s ability to create some fantastic, and realistic characters. The workplace scenes providing the perfect antidote to the suffocating atmosphere that is Andy’s home life.
This was a book that quickly sucked me into the narrative, Andy is a sympathetic character and easy to like but at times, as is often the case with books that are ‘issue-driven’ I felt that there was an over-emphasis on certain aspects in a seeming effort to convince the reader, such as the size and strength difference between the pair, authors, please learn to trust your readers; I certainly had no problem believing the scenarios! I have to admit I felt drained by the storyline, particularly as it wasn’t quite the light-hearted read to match the pre-Christmas holiday mood, but as a portrayal of what the worst of relationships can look like underneath the glossy, happy experience, it was spot-on.
A recommended read for those who are looking for something slightly different within the psychological thriller genre this is a book with a message well worth sharing.