The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
|The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: It starts well, but the intriguing premise gradually becomes confused and overly involved.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2018|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
Cecilia is picking her daughters up from swimming when the pool's receptionist asks a quick favour of her – to drop off a little boy from the class as his parents seem to have forgotten to collect him. The pool is about to close, and it's not a big ask although Cecilia is somewhat put out that it will interrupt her routine. But, minor inconvenience isn't really a good enough reason to say no so she agrees and bundles the boy whose name is Tobias into the car with her girls. This is a decision that will change her life, and that minor inconvenience quickly becomes something much larger that will haunt her every waking moment.
I've only been to Norway for a flying visit (a laughingly expensive lunch in an airport while changing planes) but Cecilia struck me as genuinely Nordic. I imagined her as tall, blonde and…mean? Maybe. She is certainly into keeping up appearances and worries about what others think of her, but at the same time will make statements that don't really endear herself to the reader. It's just so hard to be a working mother even though she doesn't work full time, her girls are now school age, and the family have an au pair who seems to do most of the heavy lifting. Call me old fashioned but if you have time for the indiscretions Cecilia makes time for, life can't be all that hard.
But back to Tobias. When Cecilia takes him to his house she quickly sees it's no suitable environment for a young boy and so, against her better judgement, she can't leave him there and takes him back to hers instead. Luckily, they have a nice large house, so while she and the girls are tucked in upstairs, she sticks him in one of the spare rooms two floors below them in the basement (but don't judge…after all her life is so hard).
The next few days, weeks, months involve all the professionals, all the agencies that Cecilia would normally never have to deal with: social services, police, psychologists. Her husband Johan is supportive, but Cecilia starts to crack under the scrutiny. And as she starts to unravel, so do some of the story arcs. It goes from a straight forward but intriguing thriller I could keep up with, to a tangled mess of woolly clues and hints and red herrings that didn't always make sense. By the end it felt like the whole story was a metaphor for Cecilia's mental health – more than a little bit bizarre, definitely confused and with a touch of mania.
There were definitely some good points to the story. The book alternates viewpoints between Cecilia and Tobias and the latter gives it a definite touch of Room by Emma Donoghue to it as the child's voice was well written and so innocent. There are diary entries and letters, too, which add different layers. Ultimately, though, I started to like the story less and less as it approached the three quarters mark. It was too confusing with some reveals too convenient. It was too lots of things for me, actually – too over the top, too convoluted, and in the end it felt like it just went too far from reality.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us this book to review. I would recommend it as a library pick first so you can draw your own conclusions. For another intriguing Scandinavian take on life, we would recommend The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
You can read more book reviews or buy The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl at Amazon.com.
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