It always amazes me when a book intrigues me, then bores me, then intrigues me again. In most cases you could give the book up when it gets to that mid point and you are a bit lost and you don’t really care what is going to happen and in some cases I would but ‘The Boys in the Trees’ was a NTTVBG book and like any book group I try my damnedest to finish a book of and I think in the case of Mary Swan’s first book it was worth it.
‘The Boys in the Trees’ is less a fictional account of a specific dark event in a small town/village but more the ripples that are left in peoples lives after that event. William Heath arrive in the fictional Canadian town of Emden after the death of most of their children (and possibly some other more secret events) in their previous life in the UK. The Heaths believe that this will be a wonderful new start and that they can begin life again. However this isn’t the case and an event of awful proportions happens to the family that affects the whole of the town. This isn’t the main story in fact it’s using this as the backdrop that Mary Swan’s debut novel looks into the lives of some of the villagers as the dreadful event and its effects ripple through the community affecting differing people in differing ways.
You might all be thinking ‘that’s a bit vague’ but really it needs to be not to ruin anything for those of you who are yet to read the book (mind you if you have read the synopsis on Amazon you will know, ha). Now before any of you do read this, I should really explain in more detail why I had rather a rollercoaster relationship with this book. The opening ‘prologue’ simply called ‘Before’ read in some ways like a slightly melodramatic thriller which to me didn’t match the books cover at all and so I read on and learned some of the Heaths life before Canada through Naomi, Williams wife, with chemical measurements interspersed which confused me a little. Then suddenly I was catapulted into the world of Alice a teacher of the Heaths daughter Rachel. Then I got put into several other narrations getting slightly more lost along the way and becoming a little vexed with the book yet Swan’s rather beautiful prose kept me going to a degree and the fact I had invested so much time into the first half and a bit I needed to read on.
Thank goodness I did because actually the last chapter of the book completely saved the whole thing for me. Written by Eaton, a friend of one of the Heaths children, this chapter (which I won’t say too much about) both utterly captivated me and shocked me all in one go. You see sometimes a book can be worth reading just for that last chapter or 30 pages and this for me was the case with ‘The Boys in the Trees’. Did I love it, not really! Would I recommend it to other people to read, quite possibly! An odd state of events to find myself in considering I was thinking of giving up half way but for me it was all about that last chapter, which if had simply been a short story would possibly be one of the best short stories I have ever read.
Interesting that I felt that way as after finishing the book and giving it some space I read the ‘Q&A’ with the author at the back and it appears Mary Swan started this whole book when she wanted to right a short story which became the last chapter. I think I might have to look up her short story collection as if each one is as good as, or possibly even better, than that last chapter it must be quite a remarkable collection. You can see the full discussion that was had at the last NTTVBG here, this I have to say would be a marvellous ‘face-to-face’ book group choice as I can imagine it would have people quite divided.
Don’t forget to join us for the next NTTVBG title ‘A Short Gentleman’ by Jon Carter which Kirsty will be holding at Other Stories, a book I will admit I voted for because of the cover alone!.