The Boy in the Field
Margot Livesey is a well-known literary voice, typically reviewed with the reverence reserved for such. I was drawn to this book by those reviews, by the synopsis of the story, and (honestly) by the fact that the book is only 272 pages in print. I like short, strong books.
The Boy In The Field is not a fast read. Nor is it what I’d expected. On the surface a whodunit, inside it is a coming-of-age story times three. Let me explain.
The premise? Three teen-aged siblings, crossing a field on the way home from school, stumble upon a boy not much older than they. Semi-conscious, he has been stabbed multiple times and is bleeding profusely. They summon help and, in so doing, save his life. The aftermath of the attack, the awareness of the fragility of life that it brings, evokes a different reaction in each sibling. This is the story’s focus.
The oldest sibling, Matthew, is obsessed with solving the crime – haunted by the presence of danger, of evil in their heretofore orderly and gentle life with their parents in the English countryside.
The middle sibling, Zoe, stricken by the near-fleeting life of the boy, goes searching for proof that passion and warmth and happiness exist.
The youngest, Duncan, the only adopted child of the three, suddenly and acutely aware of the transiency of life, becomes desperate to find his birth mother before something happens to take her away for good.
Each of the three struggles to regain control of their lives, after seeing the boy in the field with no control at all.
The Boy In The Field is an interesting concept, handled adroitly. The writing is spare and beautiful, thought-provoking at the least – more an intellectual exercise for me than an emotional one. And then there was an 8-years-later epilogue. It was pleasant enough, and I suppose necessary, but too much of a jump, a little surreal, a little too pat.
That said, Livesey’s voice lingers with me, some consolation for the…quietness of this book.