Book Review: The Son, by Jo Nesbø

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

I was disappointed. Because after resurrecting the cv_the_son_jo_nesbowonderful, gritty Harry Hole in his last book (Police), Nesbø drops him again in favour of what appears to be a stand-alone novel that dives feet first into the religious allegory that’s often provided the architecture for his work – especially in novels like The Redeemer. It’s not quite Dan Brown, but the symbolism is laid on with the proverbial trowel – a bit thick for the armchair sleuth, perhaps. Perhaps.

So the story goes that Sonny Lofthus, is a con with “healing hands,” someone prepared to selflessly absolve the sins of his fellow prisoners. But he’s also a hopeless junkie. He was a boy with potential, a medal winning wrestler. A model student. A proud son. But then his police officer father commits suicide. It was assumed that dad was at the heart of police corruption because after his death things clean up down at the Nick. A confessional note appears. It’s a fait accompli. Sonny hits the drugs and plunges in a web of evil. He’s encouraged to confess to murders he hadn’t committed in exchange for heroin by the corrupt prison staff, who are in cahoots with the local mafia.

Then a fellow prisoner reveals a secret that sets Sonny on a new path as an avenging angel of lethal retribution. Unraveling all of this is an ageing inspector and his young, over-ambitious protégé, who become obsessed with the case. The story spirals and spirals, intertwining into a tight-rope of a plot.

With a quick cadence, this is the perfect commuter novel. Short, punchy chapters that kept me interested and satiated through every train journey as I burrowed into the story, ignoring the conductor at my peril. It’s not a deep read. Everyone appears at surface level with only a few layers to peel back when the core plot demands it.

Still, this is the kind of book to make you feel it was well worth the time. It was disappointing that Nesbø chose to re-shelve Harry, but Sonny could be a potential replacement – albeit on the reverse side of the cards.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Son
Written by Jo Nesbø
Published by Harvill Secker (distributor Harper Collins)
ISBN 9781846557408

Book Review: The Son, by Michel Rostain

cv_the_sonThis book is available in bookstores now.

This is a poignant and moving read that deals with the very difficult subject of grief, the grief of parents suddenly and tragically deprived of their only child. Yet this book is not heavy going, nor a hard and sorrow-filled slog – it is, in some ways, a celebration of life and a memoir of hope and remembrance: the narrator’s 21 year old son tragically contracts a virulent strain of meningitis. Within a few hours of hospitalization, he has died and his parents are left to deal with the hole he has left in their lives. This story is the personal journey of Michel and Martine through their initial shock and grief. Through painful bouts of regret – at not spending more time with him in that final week, and cherishing the moments that they did enjoy. Through the recollections of bittersweet memories at his very touching funeral. And the final step of their journey, as they fulfil their Lion’s final dream, and “let him go” in a very moving conclusion.

This book is part memoir, part fiction; heart-breaking and beautiful. The father’s grief and love shine through in every word. However, the story is enriched not by merely following Michel through his experiences, but in the fact that we follow Michel through the eyes of Lion, watching him from the other side of death. In this manner, we are shown the wretched grief – the clinging to the last vestiges of Lion’s life: his scent upon the bedclothes, the little box of ashes. It adds an additional layer of complexity and beauty.

There is also a dash of humour, a light sprinkling to the mood.

Overall, a beautifully written, deeply affective read that, at less than 200 pages, was devoured within a day of receiving it. It makes one think of mortality and loss and leaves you with the feeling that, although losing a child is terrible, it is something that you can live with, even if you never lose the hurt.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Son
Michel Rostain
Published by Hachette
ISBN: 9780755390809