Book review: The Clearing

Monday, October 21, 2013 Permalink

Dan Newman’s The Clearing centres around the return of Nate – beset by recent tragedies – to the island of Saint Lucia where he spent time as a boy.

Slowly we learn the story behind Nate’s early years on the island and of his friendship with fellow foreigner Pip and locals (and cousins) Tristan and Pip.

cover35734-mediumCharismatic and occasional-tormenter Tristan is akin to island royalty and revered by the three other boys. His heritage is synonymous with the island and when the boys have an opportunity to visit his remote plantation home they jump at the chance. However the old house and surrounding rainforest harbour secrets which unsettle the boys; and then an event takes place, which changes their lives forever.

Indeed, now as an adult, Nate has realised that the incident which interrupted his childhood, impacted on the lives of his own family far more than he understood at the time.

Naturally Nate’s return to Saint Lucia over 30 years later isn’t welcomed by many who seem eager to keep the past buried and he faces a myriad of confrontations following his arrival. His enemies however, don’t know that Nate really doesn’t have anything to lose and – after all – he has a promise to keep.

The mystery unravels in culture of myths and superstition and is complicated by a fear of the supernatural.

I enjoyed this novel, but you kinda know what’s coming by the time the great childhood-incident-reveal takes place. I think it’s also pretty easy to guess who’s behind the attacks on adult Nate.

The Caribbean and island of Saint Lucia – from its current glamour to its remote and eerily beautiful forests – are expertly described by Newman and the sense of place in the novel is very strong.

Bizarrely I found myself not identifying with adult Nate, as I was a tad disappointed at who he’d become although it speaks to the impact that childhood events can have on one’s life. Nevertheless I found myself thinking: How dare a child with such potential disappoint me!?! #overlyinvestedmuch?! And yes… before you comment, I KNOW he’s not a real person!  However the fact that I didn’t really like or care for the central character could have been more problematic if I hadn’t also met him as a child – when he was far more likeable!

Interestingly it wasn’t until I checked out Dan Newman’s website that I discovered he has a vague affinity with Australia and – less-surprisingly – he spent time in the Caribbean as a child, which is how he’s able to write about it in a way that reflects both its beauty and its danger.

The Clearing, published by Exhibit A will be available in late October / early November.

I received an ARC of this book via the publisher (Angry Robot) and NetGalley for review purposes.

Is it weird – in books set in two timeframes – to like a character in one but not the other? I mean, I knew what had happened in Nate’s childhood, but still struggled to care about him as an adult!



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