Monday 5 January 2015

The Wronged Sons by John Marrs

What would you do if the person you loved suddenly vanished into thin air? 
Catherine’s cosy life as a housewife and mum-of-three is quickly thrown into disarray when husband Simon disappears without explanation. 
She is convinced he hasn’t left by choice as confusion and spiraling debts threaten to tear her family apart. 
Meanwhile Simon has begun a carefree new life travelling the world. And he’s determined not to disclose his past to all he meets, even if it means resorting to extreme and violent measures. 
But why did he leave? 
Catherine only gets her answer 25 years later when Simon suddenly reappears on her doorstep. 
During their furious final confrontation, they discover the secrets, lies and misunderstandings that tore them apart, then brought them face-to-face one last time.

The Wronged Sons by John Marrs was published in paperback on 25 June 2014, and is the author's debut novel.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you. 

The lines above are from one of my favourite poems; This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin. For many years I worked with young people who were in the criminal justice system, or were leaving the care system and I had these words pinned above my desk. Every day I saw the pain and horror that can be inflicted upon young people by those who are supposed to love them the most. Some parents leave their children damaged, broken and unable to cope with life.

The Wronged Sons by John Marrs is not only an intriguing and fascinating story, it also captures the hurt and pain dealt out by bad parents. Although the lead character Simon is a fully-grown adult, in charge of his own destiny, and capable of making his own decisions, the damage inflicted upon him in early life shape his future.

The novel is cleverly structured. In the prologue, the reader sees a man pull up outside a cottage, and the mystery begins.

The story goes back twenty-five years.  Simon gets up one morning and just disappears. A father of three young children, married to his childhood sweetheart Catherine, a businessman. There was no indication that Simon was unhappy, and despite desperately searching for clues, Catherine cannot understand why or where her husband has gone to. 

Running alongside Catherine's story, is Simon's own story. The reader is aware throughout the novel just where he is, and what he has done, yet there is something huge missing. Although both Catherine and Simon allude to things that have happened in the past, these are never disclosed to the reader, allowing us to try to make our own decisions about what happened, and why.

Throughout the novel, the reader is brought back to the present day with snippets of the conversation between Simon and Catherine as they meet again twenty-five years later. This is a clever way of tying up loose ends, for both of the characters, and the reader.

I don't think that the reader is supposed to like Simon, I certainly loathed the man, and whilst I really didn't care if he dropped down dead on any page, his story intrigued me. Even as the reader learns more and more about his early life, it's incredibly difficult to find any sympathy for him, yet he is a complex character, and I wanted to know more.

Catherine too is a bit of a mixed bag. She's strong, she has to be. She manages to get her life back together and make a success of it. Despite this, there are some decisions that she made that I questioned, but then there wouldn't really be a story if she'd done things differently.

There is no doubt that John Marrs can weave a quite captivating story, at times thrilling, the plot is clever and the structure of the novel adds so much to the reader's enjoyment. There are a couple of pretty improbable coincidences along the way but this is a work of fiction, and they are very forgiveable. 

The Wronged Sons is an impressive debut from an author who clearly has imagination and writes very well. It's a self-published book and there are a few typos along the way, but nothing that spoilt my enjoyment of this thrilling story.

My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review.

John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in Northampton and London. 

After 20 years of interviewing celebrities, writing about movies, books and television for national newspapers and magazines this is is debut novel.

Follow him on Twitter @johnmarrs1

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  1. Great review Anne. I'll definitely HAVE to read this one at some point!

  2. Anne - thank you so much for taking the trouble to read my book, especially as I'm an unknown and self published! I am REALLY chuffed you enjoyed it and chose to review it. John Marrs.

  3. Sounds very interesting Anne, one to look out for, Karen