Monday, August 23, 2010

A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

Published: 2007
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller
As an adult, George Davies can't bring himself to hold or be around his child. His fed-up wife sends him to a therapist, and together they delve into his disturbed childhood. George believed he was possessed by a demon, and this served as the link to his late father. But was this really the issue? Were the hallucinations and visions real?

Wow, what a weird/disturbing/thought-provoking book. To be honest, I had no previous knowledge of what this book was actually about. Sure, I knew it involved a man who was severely affected by his experiences as a child. Sure, I knew his father died mysteriously. But demons? Exorcisms? I didn't see that coming. All of it was surprisingly interesting, and it even scared me a bit.

This is a psychological thriller at its finest. The book isn't action packed by any means, and I wouldn't consider it a classic, fast-paced thriller. A Good and Happy Child is more of a subtle thriller - one that slowly creeps up on you. One thing that I really, really liked was how you couldn't fully trust the point of view of the narrator. George was truly a messed up child, and was having serious hallucinations that (might) have caused him to injure many people in many ways. As the reader, how could I be sure that he was mentally ill? Or was it the demon? I loved being unsure. The episodes that George was having of his "friend", and when his "friend" was telling him to do things, were so frightening. I'm telling you now - reading this book at midnight was not a comforting experience!

As for the writing, I wasn't overly impressed. I mean, Evans' style was a tad dry, but it fit perfectly with the book. There were the occasional moments when I savoured his descriptions and really got what he was saying, but they weren't happening all the time. It didn't matter, though, because I was so caught-up in the story that I barely noticed how his writing affected me. He did manage to invent some pretty interesting characters, especially in George. I loved his character, despite its strangeness. I kept forgetting how he was only eleven years old, because his intelligence and maturity was beyond his years. His thoughts and experiences were so haunting.

Don't worry - you don't have to be religious or believe in demons to take this book seriously. I can't tell you what happens, but there are so many events that got my heart beating faster. Nothing is settled in this book, nothing is finalized. It's all open to interpretation, and the ending is totally up to you.


Melissa said...

I quite like open endings because they keep my mind racing! Great review! I definitely think I'll need to try this one :)

Juju at Tales of said...

ooo heart racing. I love when that happens. Thanks for the beautiful eloquent review.

Chris said...

I've never heard of this one before, but it sounds really good! Adding it to the old wishlist :)

GMR said...

Wow...that does sound like a surprising twist. Not certain it'd be one for me, but it was great seeing a bit behind the pages of it. You never know where your next favorite book will come from after all. Thanks for sharing....and happy reading!

Darlyn said...

I think I'm going to love this one Emidy! A psychological thriller? My fav!Thanks for highlighting this!

Emidy said...

Melissa - Thank you! I love endings like that, too.

Juju - Aw, thanks! I know, it's great when a book gets you feeling like that!

Chris - Great! I'm glad you want to read it.

GMR - So true. I wasn't sure I'd like this book at all, but I did!

Darlyn - I was thinking of you when I was writing this review, because I know you love thrillers! You should check this out.

Jenny said...

This one sounds spooky! Normally having an open-ended conclusion would bother me, but those types of endings always make you wonder which I like sometimes. I'm thinking I need to give this one a try!

Nymeth said...

Subtle is good! Adding it to my wishlist. Your review reminded me of Come Closer by Sara Gran, which was extremely disturbing even for sceptics like me :P

Jan von Harz said...

Terrific review, I love that as the reader you could not trust the narrator, reminds me of The Tell Tale Heart. I always try to explain to my students that point of view is important to deciding how trust worthy the narrator is so this sounds like a great book to use in making my point. Thanks for sharing this book, I will definitely place this on my need to read list.

Josh Healy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emidy said...

Jenny - Oh, it is! And I agree with you. Sometimes endings like this don't fit, but it's perfect for this type of book.

Nymeth - I should read that book, then! I love disturbing.

Jan - Thanks so much! I remember reading The Telltale Heart in school.