The story is woven around the lives of 4 young men whom we meet at the age of 11 to the time they are in their 40s. Each of them comes from the same neighbourhood, but with vastly different family backgrounds. Over the next 30 years their lives will continue to intertwine until an event occurs where lives are changed forever.
William Reynolds, who tells the story from his point of view, comes from a stable family who know that he could do better. He is an underachiever and makes poor choices in life. He is also fiercely loyal to his friends. However, these character traits will be his undoing.
Carl “Carbunkle” is a geeky, only child who has strict, overbearing parents. Although he becomes a successful businessman he gives it all away in a downward spiral of alcohol and drugs. Aiden with a Swedish mother and a Scottish brogue is tall and looming. He is the gentle giant in the group and his physique makes him the ideal rugby player. His sister, Freja is central to the story and is the catalyst for much of what happens to the group in the future.
Finally, we meet Darren Connor. He is confident, street-smart, always ready for a fight, and never one to lose. It is he who is the ringleader of the group and to whom they look for guidance. However, we soon realise that their confidence in Darren is misguided. His psychopathic personality fully emerges years later and his presence becomes toxic to them all. However, loyalty and boyhood friendships transcend common sense.
Theme of the Book
The prevailing theme is the importance of making good choices and how one can drift into crime and anti-social behaviour when swept away with the crowd instead of stopping to think of the consequences.
What I Liked About the Story
The novel is well-written and the prison scenes very believable. This is no surprise considering that Greenwood was a prison officer for 4 years and so is well-versed in the behaviour encountered by those incarcerated.
I enjoyed the story as it unfolded and seeing the boys develop into men. However, it is also incredibly sad to see how young innocence is lost and bad choices readily made without any forethought to the consequences. You will read about life being squandered, opportunities lost and how friendships are cashed in without a thought to those being affected in the process.
The character development is brilliantly done and Greenwood can definitely tell a story.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
What threw me a bit was the excessive use of similes. I found that the overuse of the similes detracted from the story rather than adding to it. I do hope that this bit of constructive criticism will be taken on board, because it spoilt an otherwise cracking good read.
This is a book that I would definitely recommend reading. If you enjoy a gritty story, tinged with triumphs and sadness, then this one is for you. It is being promoted as a thriller suspense/crime novel. However, I would categorise it more as literary fiction with crime as a central theme.