Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Forgetting Zoe

Ray Robinsons is one of the literary equivalent of the Bigger than the Beatles series. He is one hell of a talented writer who with is 3rd novel deserved the major break through, only for the similarly themed The Room to get there first and steal a chunk of his thunder.

Zoe is a normal 10 year old girl , when she is snatched on her way to school in Northern Canada by Thurman Hayes and for the next 8 years abused and imprisoned on a remote ranch in Arizona, 4000 miles away from her mother and her island home.

What is great about the book is that Robinson resists the temptation to go down the route of painting Zoe's years of capture and abuse. Instead the relatively short novel and his sparse style means that the horror comes more from what isn't said rather than what is. For example Zoe's scars are casually refered to as old dog bites, and having met Thurman's dogs previously imagination takes over as to what this exactly means.

The novels structure broadens to show the wider horror of the situation , the impact on Zoe's mother, Zoe's conflicting feelings for Thurman as her period of captivity comes to its conclusion as well as the horror of repeated abuse as we see  the history of Thurman's relationship with his father and his mother played out within his relationship with Zoe.

It is difficult to write about the novel without giving away big spoilers. I'll just leave it by saying that the combination of brutality and compassion, the fact that all the characters are so well drawn and distinctive, the at times claustrophobic sense of tension means if you give it a go, you'll think deep and hard about the a novel that has stayed with me long after I finished reading    

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