Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis
Hogarth: 3/7/17
uncorrected proof; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451495648

The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis is a highly recommended brooding, Southern Gothic coming-of-age debut novel.

Henry Aster's father, also named Henry, left Old Buckram, North Carolina, a small Appalachian town, to attend college and never planned to return. He married and obtaining a law degree, all while knowing he had a great novel inside of him. He did return to N.C. with his pregnant wife, Eleonore, just before Henry's birth, when he learned his mother was ill. Henry's father is a brilliant, passionate man who wants to be a writer. When he has some notable success with a legal case, he buys a mansion perched on the side of a mountain, nick-named "the vulture house." Here he raises his family, Henry and his sister, Threnody, and struggles to write his novel surrounded by a huge collection of books. He is a brilliant man, tortured and drinking too much, who abandons his family.

Henry narrates the story of his father and his growing up in Old Buckram. He follows the path of his father, leaving home and planning to never return. He obtains a law degree. Eventually, he too returns to the vulture house with a need to confront the memories left behind in the house and find closure.

This is a beautifully written novel full of eloquent prose. It has a wonderfully detailed and descriptive use of language that captures the atmosphere of the settings. You can immerse yourself in this novel and feel as if you were there with the characters. The characters are all well-developed - becoming vivid and realistic. Although the tone of the novel can be dark and depressing, there are some lighter moments that relieve the tension. A bit of the momentum is lost when Henry meets and pursues the young woman named Story and we are pulled into her challenges. She has a mystery of her own she is trying to unravel. Part of the ending was a surprise to me, although, perhaps, suspected, but I appreciated the way it was handled.

The Barrowfields is a great choice when you want to immerse yourself in a dark, atmospheric novel that follows a family and investigates the relationship between fathers and sons.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House via Library Thing.

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