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Always the Sun [Paperback]

Neil Cross
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jan 2004
What do you do when your son is bullied? How far will you go to protect him from those who seek to cause him harm? Jamie is thirteen years old, an only child. His mother has recently died. He and his father Sam have moved to Sam's home town. A fresh start. An aunt to lend support. A new job for Sam, a new school for Jamie. But one day Jamie comes home, bearing the scars of every parent's nightmare. Something must be done...So it begins.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (5 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743231392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743231398
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,996,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A gripping journey to the limits of paternal emotions' -- Mail on Sunday

'Brilliantly and sympathetically written, it will strike cold fear into the heart of every parent' -- Daily Mail

'Neil Cross is at once masterly, authoritative and tender throughout this superb and difficult novel. Outstanding' -- Big Issue

'Set to be his most successful yet...harrowing but gripping' -- Time Out

About the Author

Neil Cross is the author of CHRISTENDOM and MR IN-BETWEEN. He lives in London.

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Sam steered the dirty-white hire van to the nearside kerb and killed the engine. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, different, gritty and thoughtful 15 Oct 2004
Like always I just went by my sixth sense and picked up this book after being genuinely intrigued by its theme-- bullying. The book sure is unusual. And it does take a long time for the plot to sink in-- especially the gory climax.
Its predominant flavour remains a father's struggle to live up to his son's expectations (and boy, this flawed, self-critical, fragile character of Sam who tries so damn hard to be a man for his son does grow on you) until the last 5 pages jolt you out of your wits. And it gives an absolutely new hue to the whole book-- it's really about how important communication is, between parents and their kids. How utterly secretive, reclusive and puzzling kids can be and how important it is to sit with them, talk to them, play with them-- the book made me realise how difficult and frustrating parenting can be. Here there is this father recovering from his wife's loss unable to decipher his son's ambivalent attitude and goes out of his way to meet his son's needs (pay off his son's bully, get a gangster to bump off the bully's dad, buy a Chrysler, a new house) when all his son required was counsel.
Cross's sense of place and time is commendable. And so is his commentary. Granted, at times the descriptions do get a tad useless and banal (especially in the first 50 pages), but the book does have a real atmosphere reeking of the modern day Britain towns. This and the self-deprecating tone of the narrator makes for a really compulsive read. The fact that Jamie (Sam's son) is as difficult to probe into for the reader as for Sam goes a long way in one empathising with Sam when tragedy strikes in the finale. Even otherwise, the characters are tastefully drawn and written in honest, lively prose.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always the Sun 27 Jan 2004
By Nick
A totally gripping novel whose characters draw you in instantly, single widowed father Sam moves back to his home town from London with his young son following the death of his wife. The narrative takes you through the trials that Sam and Jamie face adjusting to their new circumstances and is particularly moving in dealing with Sam’s feelings of helplessness as Jamie arrives as the new boy at a new school and gradually a pattern of bullying emerges which both characters are powerless to confront, unable to communicate with one another through both the normal parent and child barriers and their grief.
Resolving to intervene Sam puts a series of events in motion to confront those responsible and it’s here that Always the Sun really takes of and examines both deep parental love and moral choices. In the final quarter Cross twists the narrative effortlessly and having reconciled myself with an expected ending the rug was superbly pulled from under me leaving me with a whole different set of feelings to wrestle with to the ones I anticipated, superb.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars same 17 Mar 2004
The other reviews point out Sam's actions are not only over the top and melodramatic, but that he fails to even take basic steps to ask his son about the bullying that centres the novel.
That's the point.
Overwhelmed with protectiveness, he sets out on his one man crusade to protect his son from pictures in his head. He doesn't ask Jamie if he's being bullied. He doesn't bother to find out what Jamie's problems are. Sam's actions are selfish and self-indulgent. He's proving he's a good father before actually being one.
I condemned the book as poor melodrama - wonderfully written but unrealistic. And then the ending stopped my breath. And it all made sense.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I totally disagree with the last reviewer. An unneccessarily sad ending? If you want to feel all warm and fluffy at the end of a book, try Tony Parsons. Sam is inexorably descending into a nightmare of his own making; yes, it can be violent, yes it can make for uncomfortable reading, but that's because Neil Cross is a confronting novelist who refuses to take the easy way out. Always the Sun explores what happens at the very extremes of experience, when the most elemental of human bonds is under threat. I can't imagine that I'll read a more compelling, beautifully observed, gut-wrenchingly good book this year.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ok, so admittedly a week ago, I hadn't even heard of "Always the Sun", or Neil Cross for that matter. It wasn't until a friend of mine came into work, sat three feet away from me, and ignored me for the best part of an interrupted half hour whilst she read the last handful of pages, that it caught my eye. When my friend had the decency to actually look up and acknowledge my presence, it was with a horrified look on her face, exclaiming "I didn't see that coming" - and promptly went on to read it again! Eventually, after spending the rest of the shift talking about the book, I gave into the inevitable: handing a battered copy of Iain Banks' "The Wasp Factory" across the table, I asked "Wanna swap?".

Briefly, (and shamelessly quoted from the blurb), "Jamie is thirteen years old, an only child. His mother has recently died. He and his father, Sam, have moved to Sam's home town. A fresh new start. A new job for Sam, a new school for Jamie. But one day, Jamie comes home bearing the scars of every parent's nightmare, something must be done. So it begins".

Rarely do I criticise other reviewers in my writing, but I will make an exception here. Many of those who have come before me have criticised this book, either because the ending seemingly came out of the blue, the issue of bullying wasn't addressed or the book was too simply written - these reviewer's don't really have a point - they have, quite simply, missed the point. There is one underlying theme that is the mere foundation of the story - and, should you keep this in mind, the whole book makes sense: this theme is "communication", or rather, lack of it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I have read this book twice now. It is a fantastic dramatical piece. Neil Cross never disappoints me. Read more
Published 1 month ago by lynne abraham
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab
I was surprised to see the rating for this book was only three stars so I simply had to write a review of it - I totally loved it! Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2011 by Shnooks
1.0 out of 5 stars about as real as reality TV
like many others I was taken in by the blurb and after a promising first 25 pages or so carried on through the banality and ultimately just plain awful prose and narrative. Read more
Published on 25 July 2010 by philip freeman
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read
This book is very boring. Nothing much really ever happens. However, after you've come too far to realise that the book is plotless, you become engrossed by the characters, albeit... Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2008 by Chris Fox
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected but not that great
I had owned this book for a long time without reading it and happened to pick it up the other day when I was bored and looking to avoid essay writing. Read more
Published on 5 April 2008 by Kate
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Poorly written
I really struggled to get into this book because it was very badly concocted.

I don't know about anyone else, but I got the distinct feeling that the author had overused... Read more
Published on 23 July 2007 by Yorkhire Bookworm
2.0 out of 5 stars Lengthy and little depth, with astonishing ending
The plot of “Always the son” is rather basic with no complications, but it takes a long way into the book, until this plot eventually starts developing and still... Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2005 by Noel Sander
1.0 out of 5 stars A simple read
This book is perhaps one of the worst books I have ever read; There is no good story and there are no valid reasons to why Sam, the father, decided to take certain actions. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2005 by E. Freeman
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling...
Mr Cross's novel inflicts on the reader a dreary litany of scenes in which people dress, eat, watch TV, smoke, drink wine or beer and utter the blandest of banalities of which the... Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2005 by HORAK
3.0 out of 5 stars compulsive but frustrating
A promising storyline that ultimately left me feeling dissatisfied.
I found the storyline drew me in and kept me hooked wanting to keep on reading to finish in one sitting,... Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2004 by Bett Demby
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