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The Son-In-Law is the story of three children, Scarlet, Theo and Ben, their grandparents Hannah and Freddie, and their father, Joseph. The complicating factor is that four years ago, Joseph killed the wife, mother and daughter who linked them all together. The children have been living in calm middle-class domesticity with their grandparents ever since while Joseph serves four years of his prison sentence. But now Joseph is a free man again, and is intent on rebuilding a relationship with them.

The opening chapters of The Son-In-Law read rather like a psychological thriller, with Joseph playing the role of a dangerous, disruptive presence apparently determined to reclaim his children from the stabilising influence of their loving grandparents. Joseph, after all, was unequivocally responsible for the death of Zoe, which occurred in front of all three children. But it gradually becomes clear that the situation is far more complex than it appears on the surface. A lot has been kept from us - and, in fact, from Scarlet, Theo and Ben. The Son-In-Law then becomes a relationship-focused novel about tough questions and agonising compromises.

There were times when I found The Son-In-Law's emotional rollercoaster a somewhat draining ride - not because it's a difficult read (it isn't at all) but because the story unfolds from three different points of view and we are constantly being asked to shift our sympathies from one character to another. This, however, is certainly one of the book's strengths, rather than a point against it.

What I did find to be a weakness, and which made me rather uncomfortable at times, was the portrayal of the late Zoe, who is depicted by turns as a mercurial, bewitching genius and a selfish, unstable monster as a result of her mental illness - even her maiden name, Wilde, is telling. I'm tired of people like Zoe being treated in fiction as if they are somehow 'other' rather than ordinary human beings with a mental health condition that could affect any one of us.

Of the three characters from whose perspective the story is told, Scarlet, a bright, curious teenager whose circumstances have made her mature beyond her years, emerges as the clearest and most engaging voice. Hannah, the grandmother who has brought up Scarlet and her brothers while grieving for the loss of her daughter and coming to terms with the failing health of her somewhat older husband, is by necessity a much less appealing character but certainly a convincing one and for all her faults, it's certainly hard not to empathise with her.

For me it's Joseph who seems the least well-drawn of the principal characters. For the moral questions of forgiveness and reconciliation to be addressed fully, it's hard for the author to make Joseph entirely three-dimensional: if we're to come to terms with the manner of his wife's death, it's necessary for him to be positively saintly in all other aspects of his existence, which simply doesn't ring true.

The Son-In-Law is, however, a perceptive and thought-provoking read, and its relatively light, easy style and neat resolutions don't stop it from asking uncomfortable questions of its readers.
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on 21 September 2013
This relatively new author has a marvellous knack of making you feel you know and understand the characters in her books. Plenty of other reviewers have already outlined the story and I can only add that as the story unfolds it is impossible not to sympathise with each and every character. Each chapter is narrated from the viewpoint of one of the three main characters, and each one ends at a crucial point leaving you wanting to start the next one to find out what happens next.

I hope Charity writes another one soon.
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on 13 January 2014
A storyline that I personally have not come across before - it's believable, with realistic characters. Not finished it yet, but am getting there, and I have found it to be very easy to read, and rather a 'page turner' which is what a book should be. Definitely one of the better books i have found for my Kindle app on my phone and I can read it anywhere, any time - and I do! Am eager to find out what happens in the end.
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on 13 January 2014
First time I have read this Author. Makes you keep switching feelings for both sides of the family, but mostly the huge difficulties and loyalties affecting the children. Thought provoking about how hard it must be for young people to cope in many situations where they are put in a situation that they have no control over but have to separate their own needs to accommodate others who seem not to be aware of the damage they are inflicting. Couldn't put this one down.
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on 11 January 2014
I was gripped from the start. I read way into the time I should've been asleep and kept sneaking back for another snippet during the day whenever I got the chance. This book is one of those that remains in the memory long after the last page. I didn't just read this, I felt it. I felt the pain of each of the characters. An extraordinary read, beautifully written.
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on 25 June 2014
A quick read but very emotive. I especially liked the chapters from Scarlet's point-of-view. However, I found the treatment of mental health and domestic violence a little uncomfortable. I don't want to spoil it for others by elaborating on the plot, but I felt it was supposed to feel some sympathy for Joseph yet disliked him intensely. I also found one element to his narrative from later in the book a bit icky to say the least.....
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on 25 September 2017
Excellent story about family conflict and how it is dealt with.
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on 28 December 2013
Not a bad book found it easier to get into than after the fall. Certain characters didn't seem right like the strict old fashioned gran always called Hannah by the kids all through the book no explanation why . Too nice an ending with the nun giving up all for marriage
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on 23 August 2017
Very good book. Couldnt put it down
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on 10 March 2017
bought as a gift
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