The story starts in the summer of 1957 with Lewis Aldridge travelling back to his home in suburban Surrey. He is nineteen and has just been released from prison. No one was waiting for him.
Over a decade earlier Lewis was awaiting his father Gilbert's homecoming from the war. Gilbert didn't know what to do with the seven year old boy except shake his hand and wish him elsewhere.
Gilbert reverted easily to suburban life - cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays followed by lunch. But his wife resisted the stuffy, stifling routines, escaping instead with Lewis to the woods or the river for picnics, just as they did in wartime days.
After one of their jaunts Lewis returns home alone after witnessing his beloved mother drowning. The emotionally disabled Gilbert is unable to cope with his own devastating loss let alone help Lewis, so, left alone with his grief Lewis descends into dark places. Only one person understands Lewis’s rage, Kit Carmichael. Kit has always understood more than most, not least from what she has to endure from her father.
This is a harrowing read, almost every page turn reveals further setbacks, my heart ached for Lewis. How he was treated in the community, the injustice he was up against and how poorly he was treated as a young, sad and broken boy. People didn’t do emotions in those days, it was a case of pull yourself together and get on with it.
Anyone under the age of 60 probably wouldn’t relate to the comfortable, suffocating suburbia of the 1950's, where everyone attended church on a Sunday, more as a ritual for appearances rather than a deep ecumenical belief. Then return to closed doors where a mother leaves the room when she knows her husband is going to beat her daughter with his leather belt because “Children must learn to obey and behave”. A place where the world could explode but Sunday lunch must go ahead as usual.
It's a good story, beautifully written, and the ending I was hoping for.
~Happy Reading ~