Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway

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Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Gina Garnett
Reviewed by Gina Garnett
Summary: This book tries hard to keep you off balance and disturbed. Unfortunately, it never keeps its attention on one thing long enough to make you care, all I was left with was mild irritation.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 282 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Granta
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1-84708-527-6

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Hawthorn and Child is a series of standalone events tenuously linked by the people involved, written as a stream of consciousness. The title characters are middle ranking policemen and the events are mostly crime related but honestly, sometimes it’s hard to tell. While the first half of that premise is a good thing, the stream of consciousness makes it hard to engage with.

Normally, when I don’t like a book, I race to the keyboard to air every piece of dirty laundry I found –to explain why that character was annoying or that plot point unnecessary but with this one, I’m struggling. Because the stream of the book has such little memory, so little that carries from section to section, it’s hard to remember what was happening the last time you were reading and to be honest, I can’t remember now what happened in the parts I read on my lunch break today. All in all, this leaves me with a vague sense of disapproval and that Ridgway does have, on occasion, a formidably good grasp of description.

Ridgway has an enthusiastic approach to the sex and violence that go into this book. They’re not only there in abundance, but great care and effort has gone into making them as graphic and detailed as possible. They come to a point where they start to become like one another; while the sex is never overtly violent or the violence never outwardly sexualised the undertone grows. This is, I assume, not only deliberate but the whole point to having either of those things in the book. It’s supposed to make us question ourselves and maybe even feel guilty about our desires. However, there comes a point where it tips you just a little too far and…there. Desensitised. All that effort gone to waste as the effect is ruined and the orgy, the suicide, the riot become just another scene. Which is a shame, because he was nearly onto something that would really make the book linger in the mind.

The characters are many and varied and we truly are inside the heads of every one of them. This includes the titular Hawthorn, a gay police officer who is struggling with some unspecified trouble. A teenage girl juggling her mother’s breakdown following the suicide of an old friend with her first sexual relationship. An unnamed man who believes he was poisoned by Tony Blair. An editor who may or may not have murdered one or more young prostitutes. And so on and so on. We don’t really stay with any of them long enough to become attached, despite that we keep coming back to Hawthorn. We never enter the mind of Child, oddly, even though finding he and Hawthorn separated is rare.

All in all, Ridgway shows some lurking potential for real genius, but regrettably he spends too much time trying to be troubled. A lot of the impact is lost through this and it’s the reader that really loses out.

We had similar problems with another stream-of-consciousness novel, Greed by Elfriede Jelinek.

Buy Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway at Amazon.com.


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