My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I find myself confused as to how to write about this book. I wanted to love it. The premise is one that grabbed me from the start, strange cult like behaviour, group of people who were mindlessly following an all consuming leader and set in the moors… all this should have equalled winner winner chicken dinner for me. But somehow it fell flat.
Green is a young girl who is apparently happy within the confines of Foxlowe, but her younger ‘sister’ rails against the confines and speaks secretly of becoming a Leaver. Doesn’t this sound like a thrilling read? Sadly I found the execution confusing and just not enjoyable. Some call it gothic in style, but I felt it was simply convoluted. Everything is told in past tense. We are limited to the insights of the herd mentality through the eyes of Green, a young uneducated girl whose whole existence has been within the confines of the commune.
The founders are Richard, Liberty and Freya, who has by far the strongest, most controlling personality and rules the ‘family’ with an iron fist. People have their names changed when they enter to commune to signify their new beginning, which is part and parcel of wiping away the individual and drawing them into the ‘group think’ and control. There are no individuals and everything is owned by the group together.
There are sickening scenes written of the Spike Walk, the cruel punishment given to the ‘ungrowns’ as the children are referred to. Summer Solstice is a time of great strength and healing, where are Winter Solstice is a time of odd rituals and danger to the family. The family is self enclosed and isolated from the rest of the world, that is portrayed as being full of Bad. All this was strange but not especially disturbing, as Ive read much more graphic scenes in other books. The disintegration of the family is the central theme of the story that comes as no surprise.
The writing style is choppy and there is no pure thread of plot through the book but maybe Ive just missed the point, as it signifies what it is like to be inside a cult which is never clear cut either. And can I just say the lack of quotation marks around the speech of the characters drove me bananas! I suppose the great question of the novel is would we know right from wrong if we had never been exposed to multiple points of view.
In the end this novel just wore me out because of its style and I didn’t enjoy it.