The November book for one of my much-loved book clubs is, Of A Boy by Sonya Hartnett. I read the blurb months ago and had forgotten the premise. I was motivated to pick it up this week for two reasons, 1) the book was already selected so I didn’t have to try and find a book to read. 2) It’s a short book. Very short. 199 pages and just the right size for someone who was looking for a quick page-turner to get me off Netflix and back into my bookshelf.
Well. F#$%! Usually, when I do a book review I like to keep it positive. If I love the book then I rave about it and it’s easy to write all the great things about a book I love. If I don’t like the book all that much then I try to find a few positives and write about those. No use slamming an author and their work just because I didn’t love it. Someone else might love it and I don’t want to be the one to deter people from reading books, any books.
Face to face I’ll tell a person how much I hated a book and why. Or maybe it was just ok but easily forgettable. I’ll recommend a book I love, and quite easily tell them what books not to bother with, based solely on my opinion, face to face.
Now here I am with a dilemma. I did not hate this book. In fact, the writing was beautiful and I could almost touch and taste the detailed settings. I had physical reactions to Of A Boy. Imagine that. Imagine knowing you wrote a book that made a person hold their breath for chapters at a time (an author’s dream). I found myself squirming with anxiety, constantly on the edge of my seat with where this short fiction was taking me.
When I arrived at page 198, I desperately hoped page 199 was going to round me up in a hug and give me a reprieve.
I don’t want to spoil the book because in its own strange way it carries insight and beauty, but face to face I would probably caution you with a major trigger warning.
Mix those two things with children and it’s safe to say that this book is definitely not for everyone.
I am left wondering what the vibe at book club will be this month. I can only imagine, knowing how book clubs go, it will start with acknowledging the sadness, the beautiful writing, and perhaps someone will share a sad experience of their own. Then, as wine is poured and cheese is devoured, the topic will shift and the mood will lift. And all will be right in the world of book club.
So. Would I recommend this book? Yes. But in all honesty, I do not for the life of me know why. Maybe for the beautiful writing. Or maybe, selfishly, so I can have another person to debrief with, so I can empty my chest of the feelings I’ve been left with since finishing.
For such a short book, it sure packed a punch, straight to the gut, and has left me winded.