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4.7 out of 5 stars
354
4.7 out of 5 stars
The Son-in-Law
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 January 2014
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 2 October 2017
Anybody who likes reading about family will love this book. Especially liked the Scarlet character if only all teenagers were like her.
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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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on 15 March 2017
thank you
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on 12 November 2017
Not many books make my cry but I felt I knew the people so well I cried with them. The situation is one no one ever wants to be in and we were given a taste of how it was for all the sides involved. Beautifully written can't wait to read more by Charity Norman
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on 23 December 2013
Another resounding success by Charity Norman. I first picked this author because she had been compared to Jodi Picoult. In my opinion Charity is even better. Have now read all 3 of her books and can't wait for more.
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on 26 July 2017
Thoughtful and sensitive story about conflict, love and forgiveness. I was in tears by the end! Well worth reading it.
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