Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
Advanced copy received from NetGalley in exchange for a review
Until that phone call it had been an ordinary day. Laden with groceries, I was walking home through Bermondsey, a neighborhood of London, just south of the river. It was a stifling August evening and when the phone rang I considered ignoring it, keen to hurry home and shower.
Quick non-spoilery summary:
Last spring Daniel's parents sold their home and business in England and purchased a farm in a remote part of Sweden for their retirement. His contact with them since then has been minimal, owing in large part to his reluctance to come out to them. But now his father is calling and telling him that his mom has been committed to a mental hospital. Before Daniel can rush to her side, he finds out that she is on her way to him in London. When she arrives she is acting strangely. Paranoid. She asks him to listen to her story before he makes any judgments. The bulk of the novel is her story. It is told almost as a monologue.
This is my first Tom Rob Smith novel. I have wanted to read Child 44, but never got around to it, so when the opportunity to read an advanced copy of The Farm presented itself, I jumped on it. It was not what I expected. I knew that Child 44 was a spy novel, and I expected The Farm to be something similar. It is not. It sort of starts out that way, with some intrigue and misdirection, but it is a different sort of thing. I don't want to say too much about it because a large part of the novel is trying to decide what is going on and who to believe. I like that moment when a book that has been a puzzle comes together, and I don't want to take away from that in any way.
My biggest problem with the novel was that I just wasn't invested in the action and characters. Too much of the story is telling, and it takes away from the character and relationship building. The unreliable narrator coupled with the style kept me at a remove. The novel didn't really come together for me until the end.
So, did it work for me? Sort of. I find this one really hard to write about without giving anything away. Part of what didn't work for me may have been intentional. This is one where I could see reading it again to see if the pieces become more obvious and watch it all come together. Will I read another Tom Rob Smith novel? Probably.
If you like The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, try Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd. Like The Farm, it has an unreliable narrator and a European sensibility.