Friday, 19 December 2014

James Scott Has Hit the Ground Running with The Kept



What was on my night table...



The Kept is James Scott's first novel.  I'm confident in referring to it as a first for he is an exceptionally competent writer and I'm sure there will be more novels to follow.  I read this book in about four sessions; despite its rather dark subject matter, it is an 'easy' read.  James has a pared down way of writing that is very direct and moves the story along quickly.
The premise is attention-getting; most of a family including young children are murdered and the mother and eleven year old son set out on foot to find the murderers.  The book is essentially their journey both literally as they travel through the backwoods and small towns of upstate wintry New York and figuratively, as each evolves in response to the trials, hardships and personalities they encounter along the route.
I'm not surprised that this book is often compared to The Road by Cormac McCarthy; the writing is reminiscent of Cormac's and the plot echos the father and son in The Road.  But what I found missing in The Kept was grimness.  I found The Road deeply, disturbingly grim (the last scene, the one on the beach, still haunts me).  This book, though sharing a similar type atmosphere at times, has more kindness and the main characters are dealt with tenderly.  This serves to soften the reality of what is happening.  I especially loved the quiet strength of the boy; what a wonderful character James has written in the form of Caleb.

It's always interesting to me when an author can write a good story that also has literary merit, especially in a first novel.  James Scott has definitely hit the ground running with The Kept.