Daniel had a happy, drama-free childhood on The Farm.
His parents never fought. Now, he lives in London with his partner, believing his parents are enjoying a bucolic retirement in Sweden.
But he’s received back-to-back distressing phone calls. In the first, his father says the mother is mentally unstable and has been committed to a hospital.
The next phone call sets off the thriller. His mother claims everything the father has said is a lie. She’s desperate for someone to believe her. Oh, and she’s also at the airport ready to be picked up, having left the mental hospital.
Much of the book is Daniel’s mother recounting the steps that led her here in painstaking detail.
The writing style is a bit odd. The book is first person from Daniel’s point of view, but switches to his mother’s first person account as she tells her story.
The amount of detail and exposition she provides seems better suited to third-person, rather than an hours-long monologue. Visualizing her sitting in Daniel’s living room, talking about every occurrence in such great detail, a story that takes a lot of time and patience, seems odd given the fast-paced desperation she feels. She’s almost manic, but a story like that would take hours.
It was enough to take me out of the story a bit. Instead of visualizing the tiny layers adding up to a mountainous pile of evidence in her favor, I instead kept imagining this crazed woman ranting about potato salad.
Expository awkwardness aside, though, The Farm is still a good book. When it gets away from the drawn-out storytelling, that’s where the real action starts. The story becomes tense, the stakes high. It’s just a shame that it takes so long to get there.
Tom Rob Smith
Published February 2014
Simon & Schuster UK