Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The kept by James Scott

the cover of the book  is bleak, a house or barn in a barren winter snow covered field, flames showing - what is going on?
For a first novel this is amazing.   1897 - Elspeth Howell is walking home from her latest midwife job, her money tucked in her shoe.  She is bringing gifts for her husband and children, when she sees her house in darkness and knows with a certainty that something is very wrong.
She finds all of them dead, except for Caleb who is 12 years old, and her odd child - he prefers to live in the barn with the animals rather than in the house (which on this occasion has saved his life)..
There is no explanation of Elspeth and how she became a midwife.  No explanation of why she occasionally brings home a child to be her own.  No explanation of why her husband is so strange.
The writing is compelling, dragging the reader along to find answers to all these questions.  During the journey this book takes, Elspeth masquerades as a man, so she and Caleb will not starve.  Caleb has a job in a bordello, he is definitely NOT today's average 12 year old.  The ending of the book is shocking, but I don't believe it could end any other way.  A wonderful first novel.

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