As some of you may have seen, I was very lucky to receive quite a few books from publishers during December. The selection was incredibly varied and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. After spending far too long deliberating over what to read first, I opted for reading them in order of release date, hoping to get reviews up for as many of them as possible in advance. Today’s book review is one such example of this.
I knew barely anything about Phillip Lewis’s The Barrowfields, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading.The books blurb described how, before the birth of Henry Aster, his father reluctantly returns to the North Carolina mountains where he grew up to install his family in a Gothic mansion. With his father a frustrated novelist, as well as a lawyer, the house seemed worthy of the infamous Edgar Allen Poe he admired so much. This is the conditions in which Henry grew up, living in the shadow of this brilliant man. But when a death in the family brings his father closer to the edge of something terrible, Henry flees his home, returning only years later when the Barrowfields calls him back home.
You’d think from the above that this book would be quite dark and Gothic, a book with a lot of family drama and intrigue. I think the biggest let down for me was that the plot is actually quite different in reality, which sadly meant that I did not find it anywhere near as gripping as I had originally hoped. The secrets which seem to be implied in the blurb, the dramatic moments which ruin Henry’s father and see Henry fleeing, are actually not that tense or enjoyable to read. I have no issue at all with slow paced books, often finding they give the best room for character development. Whilst the characterisation in this book was very well executed, this did not stop the book from making me feel quite bored. At times, especially the beginning, I simply felt as if this were a family history which was being narrated to us in the form of a lecture. Indeed, the book as a whole is quite narrator heavy, even despite the use of dialogue.
What I will say about this author is that he is certainly a skilled writer. In particular, the descriptions of the unsettling house the family relocate to are brilliant. The author manages to bring the house into vivid reality in our minds, each room brought glaringly to light, imposing on us the sense of melancholy and frustration which linger within. Likewise, the authors ability to write is clear when he tackled such enormous and poignant themes such as death and the passing of time. He is able to phrase thing superbly, putting into words very human thoughts whilst taking command of his language to give every line beauty. I think it’s clear to see that this author is very well read and has a great passion for the art of writing and literature in general. The pages of this book are suffused with a great mixture of authors whilst simultaneously examining the importance of the act of writing and what literature can mean to an individual. If you have a passion for reading or writing, I think this really does add a whole new dimension to this novel.
This is a very self reflective book on the characters within it, exploring ideas of what makes us who we are, and how we can be influenced to live our lives. Sadly, despite great writing and interesting themes, I just could not gel with this book. I found it to be far to slow paced when you consider the little which actually happens within its pages. Even the small twist at the end was something I had been anticipating for some time and was an event which seemed to take an age to be revealed. It had an interesting premise, but overall it just did not deliver for me
Has anyone else read this? If you have please comment below with your thoughts – I really want to see if any one else felt the same as I did!
Disclaimer – I was very kindly sent this book in exchange for an honest review. I will only ever post my own honest opinions and will NOT write a favourable review in exchange for a complimentary book.