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Hawthorn & Childby Keith Ridgway
Hawthorn and Child are London detectives diligently investigating crimes, yet they are a distinctly odd pair. The entire book has an overwhelming feeling of strangeness; even the secondary characters are peculiar and eccentric.
Ridgway pushes a lot of boundaries, but he does it exceedingly well. Reading this, I had the feeling of being dropped into an already-existing scenario — nothing is explained, only experienced. While unsettling, the format lends itself to the unfolding of surprise after surprise in an innovative way. Each chapter has the clear sense of being inside the narrator's head, with the action being a blend of the character's perspective and the actual truth. The result is more a feeling of "experiencing" this book rather than reading it. I almost wonder if Ridgway knew where this book was going when he started writing; it seems that fresh and unexpected.
It feels more like a collection of short stories, with central characters running throughout, rather than a straight-up novel. The "chapters" are not really connected to each other, but, as much as I hate short stories, that isn't an issue here. There is a real depth to Hawthorn's character; the book glides along quickly and feels hefty enough to be classified as a novel.
Not for the squeamish, parts of Hawthorn and Child are as dark as anything I've come across. But, for a purely novel experience — one that is seriously well done, if slightly bizarre — this is your book.
Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn and Child is a curious, strange, often delightful work that cannot really be described as a novel in any traditional sense of the word. More a collection of stories or vignettes connected by the two titular characters, the Irish author's ambitious work is humorous, imaginative, and, at times, surprisingly moving. Focusing on the professional and personal lives of a pair of English police detectives (also of different races and sexual orientations), Hawthorn and Child delves into the seedy world of crime, conspiracy, and death — but also geopolitics, love, and relationships. It's a police drama (sans the usual procedural asides but with plenty of the requisite violence and heinousness) but also a story of friends, colleagues, and their lives outside of the beat. Ridgway's prose is staccato and unadorned, but possesses a rhythmic or cadenced quality to it. His imagination is surely a productive one, and some of the book's scenes and settings are entirely unexpected. While not a perfect work, Hawthorn and Child makes up for in charm, creativity, and originality whatever it may lack in cohesiveness and consistency.
Synopses & Reviews
A book that redefines our ideas of what a novel can do, Hawthorn & Child breaks every mold. Hilarious and cunning, genuinely eerie and yet peculiarly moving, Hawthorn & Child tosses away our fantasies of resolution in favor of the magic of suspended belief.
Hawthorn and Child are mid-ranking London detectives tasked with finding significance in scattered facts. They are comic ghosts – one white and gay, one black and straight – turning up repeatedly and ineffectively to haunt the scene of some catastrophe or another, appearing and disappearing along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pickpocket, a dead race-car driver, and a pack of wolves. Mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious – and hopeless – compulsion to solve them. In Hawthorn & Child, the trippiest novel New Directions has published in years, the only certainty is that we’ve all misunderstood everything.
"The London we encounter in Ridgway's (Animals) unsettling new novel is a city of mystery, a cloud of fog which allows few glimpses of clarity — despite the many attempts at crime-solving made by the two police detective protagonists. The book reads like a collection of short stories, unified only by the continuing presence of the police partners, a crime lord named Mishazzo, and an atmosphere in which answers are always just out of reach. Characters, with varying levels of criminality, appear and disappear: a man shot by someone in a vintage car no one else witnesses; a potentially psychopathic editor who obsesses over a strange fantasy manuscript; a pickpocket; a daughter in the throes of her first sexual relationship. In spite of the book's general obscurity, two protagonists are fully realized, intriguing characters: exact opposites, one black, straight, good-looking, and secure; the other white, gay, and neurotic. Their appearance is always a welcome moment within each chapter. Ridgway's writing is beautiful, sardonic, and well-contained. A detective novel with many crimes and few solutions concerned more with human connection (or lack thereof) than cases and clues, Ridgway's book is successfully thought-provoking and haunting. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A mind-blowing adventure into a literary fourth dimension: part noir, part London snapshot, all unsettlingly amazing
About the Author
Keith Ridgway is a Dubliner and the author of the award-winning novels The Long Falling, The Parts, and Animals, as well as the collection of stories Standard Time and novella Horses. He lived in North London for eleven years. He now lives somewhere else.
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