Book review: Boy on the Wire by Alastair Bruce does drag on a bit

Guilt, death and remembering are at the heart of Bruce's new novel

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:01pm

Readers of Alastair Bruce's debut novel from 2011, Wall of Days, will no doubt compare it with his latest, Boy on the Wire, as both share similar themes of guilt, loss and remembering.

Boy on the Wire surrounds one single event: the "accidental" death of Paul Hyde, when he and his older brother Peter fall off a cliff. Peter loses his memory, while John, the youngest of the three brothers and the one who witnesses the event, keeps his mouth shut. The past is forgotten, or, at least, swept under the rug when protagonist and narrator John moves to London and settles down with wife Rachel.

However, when Peter comes to London and claims that his memory has returned, John is pulled out of his safe haven, his marriage to Rachel falters and he is dragged back to South Africa where vague memories of his childhood and the past haunt him. Little by little, he realises the beautiful lies and ugly truths of his childhood.

However, many readers will be left disappointed by how little the plot has to offer and will slowly lose interest as the story drags on. Those who finish will be driven by their curiosity to learn the truth behind the death of Paul, but, for many, it will be a fairly predictable ending.

Despite that, the book will appeal to those interested in psychology, as it toys with readers' emotions and psychological well-being by slowly digging deeper into John's dark past.

Many parts of the novel are also quite visual and vivid, and readers will picture themselves walking through different places with John himself.

Some moments in the story may remind readers of silent scenes in horror movies - at one point, reality becomes indistinguishable from dreams and it is uncertain whether John is awake or hallucinating. Do his memories of the past exist only in his imagination?

The constant reminder that John is being watched also gives readers the impression that the protagonist is slowly going insane.

Boy on the Wire by Alastair Bruce (Clerkenwell Press)