I have just finished reading Charity Norman’s latest novel, The Son-in-Law and what a fabulous read it turned out to be. I was so gripped by this wonderfully complex tale that I did not want to finish it. The final page was a bitter-sweet experience – a mixture of huge enjoyment for a story well told amid a sense of loss that there was no more to be read. It’s not often that I read a book that is as immensely satisfying as this one. So, what is it, you are probably asking, that makes it so good?
Joseph Scott is the son-in-law. Four years ago, in a fit of rage, he killed his wife Zoe in front of their three children. He was sentenced for manslaughter; served four years of his sentence; and is now out of prison hoping to start a new relationship with his children.
Hannah and Freddie Wilde are the in-laws. Ever since that fateful night when they heard of their daughter’s death, they have looked after and cared for their grandchildren alongside dealing daily with their dreadful loss. Now that their son-in-law is out, they are determined that he should have nothing to do with his children and will go to great lengths to prevent any contact lest it should cause more distress to the children.
Scarlett, Theo and Ben are the three grandchildren stuck in the middle of this feud. They are torn between loyalty to their grandparents and their dead mother and the desire to get to know their father better. When the court decides that there should be contact, they go to great lengths not to reveal the pleasure they gain from being with their dad when they return home to Hannah and Freddie. As time progresses, they find their emotions conflicting more and more especially when both parties decide that they want the children to live with them permanently. Is there any way that there can be a happy outcome without upsetting someone?
The Son-in-Law is a wonderfully written book that will take you on an emotional roller coaster. Charity Norman compels the reader to become involved with this heart breaking story which is always likely to end up with someone losing out. The characters are portrayed so very well that it is impossible not to sympathise with all of them. I liked the way that different chapters are written from different points of view. Through doing this, the author makes the reader see that none of the relationships are as clear cut as one might expect. She is superb at making the reader explore and consider all possibilities.
I was completely hooked by The Son-in-Law from the very first page and could hardly bring myself to put it down. I felt quite emotionally wracked by the end and was very relieved that I had read the last part of the book in the privacy of my home: it would have been quite embarrassing to have been seen with incessant tears rolling down my face had I been reading in a public place.
The Son-in-Law is the second book that I have read by Charity Norman and I am now a huge fan. I just hope that as do not have to wait too long for the next one!
The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman
To be published July 2013 by Allen and Unwin.
I am very grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.
You can read Charity Norman’s Holiday Reads 2013 article here.
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