Where do you stand when you have no clue what to expect from life? When you are too lazy to get enthusiastic about anything, study, career, a relationship? When you are just not involved in what you do or what you will become, lacking a goal in life? A coincidental friendship between four school kids turns out to be the determining key factor in your life, whether you like it or not. Can you, should you or will you stay loyal to those friends, no matter what? Even at the cost of your own happiness, your own life?
“In order to understand, I destroyed myself.”
Fernando Pessoa’s quote is the first thing to read in this thrilling and gripping novel – and I could start and end my review here and now. No more need you know, no more to tell about the lifelong friendship between four boys, who meet in ‘The Prince’s School’ in Peterborough one fateful morning in 1985 when they are eleven years old. They are an awkward bunch: Will hates school and studying, would rather have attended another school nearby and Carl is “a tragic figure, a genius of giant intelligence but a geek of epic proportions.” Then there is Aiden, a giant in his own, having “a big, red, round, sleepy face with a sloppy grin.” Finally it’s Darren, with “keen and sharp yet at the same time seemingly devoid of emotion” eyes, who loves martial arts and acts as an adult, despite his age.
As always within a friends’ circle, each has a different role. Will is the sound man, the one to trust, decent and reassuring, although with zero ambition. Carl is the awkward one, brilliant with numbers, who will make it through University, also in his own way the most empathic one. Darren is the dominant force in the foursome, Aiden the vulnerable and slow one, who has to figure everything out, but also the affectionate one, in need of the closeness of his friends. We follow the friends through life and see an evolving pattern with always a fight around the corner in which Darren is somehow involved; leaving the others no choice but to back him up. They hang out together and Aiden’s sister Freja joins in – Darren is madly in love with her, Aiden is devoted to his sister.
When a terrible accident causes Freja’s death the impact is terrible. Gone is their youthful innocence, the harsh reality is literally kicking in. Aiden is in deep mourning for his sister, Darren is simply devastated. This unleashes Darren’s aggressiveness and need to dominate, to brutally fight, to the extreme. As it happens they are about to end their school years and make plans for the future. The accident decides Darren’s – he will join the army and fight like hell in whatever foreign country he is needed. Aiden has no choice but to support his parents wherever he can, Carl will study and Will? As usual Will has no clue, he only knows he hates studying. His dad advises him to find a job and perhaps through that job a goal in life – and that’s what Will does.
It’s a tale of a strong yet dangerous friendship. They hang out, have fun, get drunk, take drugs, but the harshness of life’s reality is always close. If Will questions the choices he makes, he never acts upon it, no determination to do whatsoever. He doesn’t want to get drunk, but there he goes. He hates the way drugs make him feel – but he cannot say no to Darren. There is a strong connection and although Will is aware of the danger, his indecisiveness leaves him powerless. When terrible, seemingly inevitable events unroll, yet again Will is incapacitated. The reader knows it will go wrong, having witnessed Will entering prison life earlier in the book, apparently not for the first time. Whatever happened, what led Will’s life to slide downhill towards his incarceration?
The book is well written and a captivating read. I followed Will, Darren, Aiden and Carl on a thirty-year path through life and it was not always pleasant. The way these men behave is sometimes outright shocking. Although there are touching moments and acts of kindness, I felt sad and depressed witnessing the apparent carelessness with which they treat others and throw their own lives to waste. Is there time still, will they grow up and take responsibility for their lives?
About the Author
Ross Greenwood is born in Peterborough and, after working and living in various places all over the world, came back to his hometown to settle with the love of his life whom he met 100 metres from his own backyard .. where else. His work as a prison officer in HMP Peterborough is the reason why the description of the prison scenes are so close to reality.
|Publisher||Bloodhound Books (6 Sept. 2016)|