This time Charity Norman has set The Son-in-Law on the other side of the world in Yorkshire, England, and once again she tackles complex issues within one family structure. She really looks in detail at the aftermath of a murder (down-graded to manslaughter) and how each individual family member deals with the knock-on effects of this momentous and pivotal event.
The story is told from the perspectives of the remaining family members, Hannah and Frederick, the Grandparents; Joseph (the son-in-law of the title), who married their daughter Zoe, and whom Joseph killed (no spoilers here, it happens on page 1) ; and finally, their young daughter Scarlet. Their two younger siblings, Theo and Ben are too small to have a voice and real understanding of what has happened.
Clearly killing someone is not OK. But this novel explores the whys and wherefores and the moral thinking of all the characters, delving into the events and behaviour patterns of the characters in the lead-up to the death - people become culpable by their lack of action, people overlook trouble brewing, people have their own agendas. A true moral conundrum for the reader to explore.
The author really trawls back and forth, examining all the individual stories and feelings in a thoughtful, and sometimes provocative way. How much can extenuating circumstances affect life going forward? Challenges are set to the reader's personal moral stance. Ultimately, it is what is the best for the childrens' well-being that drives the outcome, and the author's knowledge of the family court (she has worked as a barrister) really shines through.
And what of location? York comes to life as they characters navigate their way through the city, past the Walls and the Minster, ruminating over the history of the ramparts at Clifford's Tower (right back to the massacre of the Jews in 1190) - over to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway; across the landscape of Yorkshire where Joseph lives. First and foremost this is a gripping and thought-provoking read, and it is the strength of the writing and storytelling that makes this a book not to be missed.
And if you are keen to read more books set in Yorkshire, that evoke this supremely beautiful part of Britain, then click here. And as always, if you feel there are books we need to add that are evocative of locale - and we don't already feature them - then just add a Comment or get in touch via our website.
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Tina and the TripFiction Team