Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith--The New Book Available 06-03-14! New York Times Bestselling Author of The Child 44 Trilogy!


The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. For a limited time,
the first 25 pages are FREE for you to download
to your Kindle or e-book reader to preview the
book (from Amazon.com). 
     The full book will be available for purchase on
June 3, 2014. You can pre-order the book from 
your favorite book vendor, or from amazon.com. [1]

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.
     "TRUE!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed--not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story." The Tell-Tale Heart--Edgar Allen Poe. [2]

     I love Edgar Allen Poe's works, and probably none more so than, The Tell-Tale Heart. In this famous short story, Poe restricts other points of view by only permitting us to hear the story from the mouth and perspective of the narrator, told in first person, and who goes unnamed. And while Tom Rob Smith's, The Farm, is NOT gothic horror, it does utilize a few of Poe's famous techniques--techniques that create suspense.

     But I am getting ahead of myself. I wanted to start talking to you about, The Farm, at the beginning, but I've jumped ahead. And, now...I'm laughing out loud, because this is one of the things the narrator's mother basically says--a number of times. The mother, Tilde, repeatedly asks not to be interrupted, to be permitted to finish, and to let her tell her story in "chronological" order. (Chuckle, chuckle....) I tell you what, let's take a look at a short synopsis of the book, then we'll come back to talking about the book, OK?

In the, now famous, words of Inigio Montoya
(from The Princess Bride), "Let me sum up." [3]
SHORT BOOK SYNOPSIS:
     The book opens with Daniel walking home with an armload of groceries towards his apartment in a suburb of London. The evening air was stifling. Daniel was anxious to get home to shower and refresh himself...up until the moment his cell phone rang. He looked at the phone--it was his father calling from Sweden. It was strange because his Dad didn't like using a cell phone; he thought it too expensive. Daniel opened the phone and pressed it against his sweaty skin. He could hear crying. His father said, "Your mother...She's not well." His father went on to relate a story about how she had been imagining things, that she had had a psychotic breakdown and that he had had her committed to a mental hospital.

Daniel was walking home
not expecting his father to
call with disturbing news. [4]
     Not that long ago his parents had seemed so happy; they had retired and moved to their idea of the perfect retirement, a farm in Sweden. But now Daniel was racing to the airport to catch a plane to Sweden. Before Daniel can even get on his plane, he receives another phone call, this time, from his mother. She cuts off his questions and tells him "Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad...I need the police...Meet me at Heathrow," she then hangs up.

 
I found this funny meme on
Quick Meme. [5]
     Daniel is confused. Who is he to believe? his mother or his father? And, how did she get out of the hospital? Only hours later, Daniel does indeed meet his mother at the airport and she exerts pressure on him to listen to her story before he judges. To let her tell it chronologically. To not interrupt him. She insists she isn't mad and can prove it with the evidence she carries in the satchel she clutches so intensely. They go to his apartment where she begins a long, rambling story of crime, intrigue and betrayal and implicates Daniel's own father. Like Edgar Allen Poe's unnamed narrator in The Tell Tale Heart, she insists she is not mad. She insists that he "Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly [she...tells him] the whole story."

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE STORY:
     Well, first, let's address this character, Tilde, Daniel's mom, who, though not the narrator of the book, nonetheless, begins telling her story to Daniel. And, like Daniel, we listen to her telling the story, waiting and evaluating. We do just as she has asked Daniel, setting aside judgment until she has finished presenting the story and the evidence of the (at first) unnamed crimes and of her sanity. She begs patience, she wants to present it properly, in "chronological" order, showing what precious evidence she has gathered and carried with her in the satchel.

Daniel's father called proclaiming
his worry for Daniel's mother and
telling how worried he was. [6]
     I am so very impressed with Smith's technique, here. What we have is not the narrator of the book--who is actually Daniel--but the narrator's mother who tells her story and presents the evidence of the crimes committed--and the evidence of her own sanity. We do, of course, doubt her statements. We are supposed to. We have heard Daniel's Father's phone call saying she had had mental problems and had been committed. We also see Tilde in distress, looking around, nervous; and even her appearance is different than what (we are told) it used to be.

     Yet, she presents the evidence logically, "chronologically," and with earnestness. So, we are poised...not knowing...having to wait for the evidence...waiting for something that will tip the story one way or the other. Smith's creative use of tension and anticipation is masterful, here.

     Second, Daniel has real motivation to listen to her. She has threatened that if he refused to listen to the story and believe her, she would "no longer consider [him her] son." Wow! A mother threatening to disown her son for not believing her. In and of itself, this lends weight to her credibility since she is (or was) a normal mother who loved her family. For her to take this stance would be shocking to Daniel, and, perhaps, lend at least some credibility, to her willingness to risk the beautiful relationship between mother and son.

Along with Daniel, we wonder what the outcome will
be of Tilde's story. Is she right? Is she "mad?" [7]
     Edgar Allen Poe's characters often try to explain away strange events or loss of control over their thoughts. Sometimes Poe's characters (as in The Black Cat) try to find scientific evidence for "coincidences," and events that others find normal and not alarming. We wonder if Tilde is exhibiting this kind of behavior or whether she is clever and observant. Again, we come back to doubting her narration of her story. We wait for the turning point in the story, or the clue that will tip the outcome of the story...what is it in the story that will let us determine, is Tilde right? or is she "mad?"

A welcome mat I found for sale on Amazon.com. [8]
     Third, I love thinking about the titles of books. The Farm. How many different ways can you use the word, "farm?" Daniel's mom and dad put themselves, "out to pasture," so to speak, when they retired to the farm. And then there is, "farm out." That's what Daniel's mom and dad try to do for an income source when they look to have neighbors use part of their property.

     And then, one of my favorites is "funny farm." This is particularly apt, here, since Tilde is committed to a mental institution. For Tilde and Daniel, the whole story is one crazy turn of events. So, yes, I really appreciate the allusion in the name of the title of the book. Finally, the author has a specific meaning you will have to learn about by reading the book.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:
Getting to Tilde's story took a bit too long. It felt like foot-
dragging. I stuck with it until the pace picked up again. [9]
     First, I have to say, I think the opening pages of the book were utterly intriguing and capable of grabbing any reader who picks up the book. The tension created by the phone calls from Daniel's parents and fear and worry about Tilde, the concern about the reasons for Tilde's fleeing Sweden and sudden trip to London are enthralling.

     What didn't work for me was the ponderous section after the opening when Tilde is getting ready to tell her story. Foot dragging. It just seems to take forever to get into the meat of the story. And then the pacing of the story is slow. So, for a ways, I had to push myself, a bit, to keep reading, until the story pace picked up.

FINAL WORDS:
     Since this is a brand new book, to be released on June 3, 2014, I just can't give you more information about the plot or themes of the book without giving away the heart and soul of this wonderful story. Needless to say, Smith has written a beautiful book full of intrigue and tension--due to the writing techniques mentioned above, and others not mentioned. It took me by surprise.

     And, the story kept me engaged and wanting to know what was up with Tilde. The resolution of the story is nothing short of amazing. No, this isn't a story full of swordplay, but an intriguing, thoughtful story, cleverly created to engage the reader and keep the reader turning the pages.

     You will love learning more about Tilde, Daniel, his father, and the other colorful, intriguing characters Smith utilizes in crafting this story. If you love intrigue, this book might be just what you need to find satisfaction. This book was my very first read by Tom Rob Smith--I have not read his well-known Child 44 trilogy. But I tell you what...I am planning on going and getting the trilogy and reading those books. I have been very favorably impressed by the high-quality writing of this author. Well done, Mr. Smith.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING:
Tom Rob Smith's, Child 44, from his
website. Follow this link. [10]
     This book is a book for adults. Within it, mature themes grace the pages, so the only caution I would give would be to readers sensitive to adult themes. For most adults, this book is acceptable and even enjoyable given the suspenseful manner of presentation of the story.

     For all the reasons I stated, above, I am pleased to give this wonderful book a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Congratulations on writing such a wonderful book, Mr. Smith.
This is a 5 star rating system. [11]
     Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to look at a wonderful NetGalley book. As I said, above, I am definitely planning on buying and reading the Child 44 trilogy. Until next week, pick up a book and read a bit. And don't forget, that if you like the premise of The Farm, don't forget to pre-order it soon, as it comes out on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.   

Until next time...
White Rose. [12]
...many happy pages of reading!

My love to you all.

Sharon.









REFERENCES
_________________________________________________________
[1] "The Farm." amazon.com. Retrieved 05-13-14.
[2] "The Tell-Tale Heart." [Edgar Allen Poe] amazon.com. Retrieved 05-14-14.
[3] "Writing Journal: Writing a Fairy Tale." gentleandquiet.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[4] "People > Walking." immediateentourage.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[5] "I'm Not Crazy I Swear!" quickmeme.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[6] "8 Ways to Annoy an Introvert." lisaebtz.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[7] "Thought Leadership." socraticarts.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[8] "Welcome to the Funny Farm." amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[9] "Before the Mast." beforethemastrp.tumblr.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[10] "Child 44." authors.simonandschuster.co.uk. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[11] "asiakkaat." adensy.com. Retrieved 05-16-14.
[12]  "28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." funstock. Retrieved 05-16-14.
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