Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Winnowing

The Winnowing, Chris Fyles, Lulu, 2012

This novel is about a young man who seems to have lost his moral compass.

Set in northwest England, Richard is living in a strange city, friendless and an alcoholic. After an encounter with a transsexual prostitute one night, and seeing a couple get intimate against a stone wall, Richard tells how he got to this point.

Richard strongly believed in moral absolutes; certain things are Right or Wrong. It came from his parents. On his way to school, Richard sees a couple of boys who are torturing a cat. It has been tied to a fence post by its neck, and the boys are throwing gravel at it. Richard chases them away, and tries to untie the cat. At that monent, the cat's owner drives up, rescues the cat, and loudly accuses Richard of causing the cat's torment. Richard falls in lust, not love, with Laurie, a friend of his mother's, who does little to dissuade him.

Bullying and fighting seem to be common at Richard's school. He is usually one of the targets; rarely does he have the guts to defend himself. On one occasion, Richard and another student circle each other, both waiting for the other to throw the first punch. A teacher stops it, both students are dragged inside, and Richard is suspended for a week. His parents are very upset. Later, Richard is told by other students that his punishment would have been less severe if he had let the other student beat him to a pulp.

Richard also seems to acquire a liking for violence. He tries to firebomb a neighbor's detached coal bin. A friend has gotten involved in the White Power movement, so Richard is dragged along to the commission of a hate crime. Laurie introduces Richard to Jack, an elderly man who is attempting to put his life back together after some, shall we say, emotional challenges. Richard visits Jack several times; Jack seems like a decent person, except for his hair-trigger temper. At the end, Richard learns the exact nature of Jack's emotional challenges.

In a way, this is not very pleasant reading, but it is very good reading. It's the sort of story that could take place anywhere, and happen to nearly anyone. There is lots of good writing here, and it is very much worth reading.

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