Van has finished reading…The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble

27 Feb

My second helping from the lovely people at the Curtis Brown Book Group brought something very different to my door. As it’s a book group read, I’ll forego my usual regime and try to give a fuller impression of what I thought of it.
Stuart Prebble’s The Insect Farm recounts the story of two brothers, how their circumstances bind them together, and how that bond affects their lives at a crucial moment and beyond. It’s a tightly-plotted and well-thought-out story, not so much filled with shocks or twists and turns, but with a definite edge to it. The prologue hooks you into the story well – you know straight off the bat that something bad has happened. I have to tread carefully now, so as not to blow any plot points but there is a tidy pay-off to go with it at the end. What lies between is a linear retelling of Jonathan’s life, from childhood through to that defining moment, and beyond; crucially, it’s a retelling of Jonathan’s life with, because of and despite his brother.

The majority of the story is set in the early seventies (no mobile phones, scant cctv coverage, post-60’s come-down) though I wouldn’t say the characters are drawn to suit. There was no overt exertion to ‘feel’ the atmosphere of the time. This is testament to the fact that it’s the course of events, the characters and the relationships that shape them that are far more important. For me though, this is where the book just misses the mark. I couldn’t feel for Jonathan. Rather than getting me under his skin, the writing seemed to hold me at a distance. As it’s Jonathan’s eyes we see this world through it meant that it was a world I felt I was watching, rather than walking through. Paradoxically, given Roger’s proclivities, he was the character who felt most whole to me.

Given that my leanings are more towards the literary end of things, I suspect I’m rather harsher a critic than this book deserves (and this is borne out in the fact that just about everyone else in the book group discussion loved it). I couldn’t single out a particular area, for instance, and say that it’s a failing in any way. The plotting is tight, the characters are believable and the elements of suspense and intrigue are clearly there. It’s simply that it didn’t quite work for me. But you can’t love everything. Read it for yourself; I’d be glad to have you tell me I’m wrong.


2 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble”


  1. The Inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group – my first six months as a #CBBookGroupie | vanisreading - 01/07/2015

    […] The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble […]

  2. The #CBBookGroupie playlist | vanisreading - 09/02/2016

    […] & Roger’s Theme, The Insect Farm by Stuart […]

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