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A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better

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A story of a boy who was eager to form a bond with his rolling-stone dad; what he didn't know is that this bond would ruin his life forever. This is a well-written tale, which is full of foreboding, as you know from the beginning that something terrible is going to happen, and yet you can't help hope, like Daniel, that it will be averted. It starts slow, then hits you in the gut when the "incident" finally occurs, then drifts back into nothingness. In particular, Daniel’s love of The Artifex – and his reliance on an audiobook of the story during the trip – acts as an anchor during scenes that are otherwise hard to endure. That line is one that Francis Hardesty tightrope-walks for the first half of the book, then falls off of spectacularly in the second half.

I’ve had A Station On The Path to Somewhere Better on my shelves since last year when I bought it at Forum Books in Corbridge, and I am so annoyed that it took me so long to read as this is a real gem of a book. As the novel ends, the implication is that the real achievement is to learn how to live with inevitable failure – as father, as husband, as man – and have the strength of character to try again, to fail again, to fail better. The prose is powerful and masterfully paced, the characters are real, and the author manages to bridge the gap between writing a harrowing thriller and a subtle inward-diving tale. Wood effectively creates a manipulative, shitty ex-husband and self-centered absentee father in Francis Hardesty; the opening pages, where he arrives to collect Daniel for a road trip whose purpose is, for a while, unclear, cement his unreliability in our minds.The book starts off like any family drama, a steady rise in tension showing the aftermath of a family break-up. Before we read another word, we know this will be the story of a toxic—perhaps dangerous—father and the disillusionment of a young son. But as it is, the bulk of the book is spent describing the horrible events of the past, and there can be no particular reason to treat those events as though they’re special. Because the reader lacks Daniel’s need for love and acceptance from Francis (and is also an adult, not a child), we’ve come to this realisation earlier, but watching Daniel get there is nail-biting.

Morley’s Elmet was a surprise Booker nomination last year, and hopefully this might make next Tuesday’s longlist. Fran sucks his friend, QC, and an ex-girlfriend, Chloe, into his deceit and Dan has to watch – finally duct-taped to the carseat, as his father’s anger heats into rage and violence.His ex-wife, Kath, all too aware of Fran’s fecklessness, is wary about this trip, but Daniel, a lonely child who needs more in life than she can provide, is obsessed with the series and persuades her to let him go. For twenty years, Daniel Hardesty has borne the emotional scars of a childhood trauma which he is powerless to undo, which leaves him no peace. Benjamin is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at King's College London, where he founded the PhD in Creative Writing programme and teaches undergraduate fiction modules.

Benjamin Wood is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at King's College London, where he teaches fiction modules and founded the PhD in Creative Writing program. The back cover of my proof of this doesn’t give much away: merely the names and relationship of our two protagonists, Francis and Daniel Hardesty, father and son, and the promise of a road trip that ends in an explosion of violence, which continues to haunt Daniel twenty years after the fact. but in agreement with one of the other reviewers I saw nothing beneficial from the Artifex sections . For the characters a nightmare, for the reader an exciting thriller, now slow, then accelerating, then again fading into a dreary hopeless irreversibility.

Rambling and dragged out with excrutiating padding; in particular, the interminable excerpts from the dreary children's sci-fi story that the young protagonist is obsessed with - thank you for putting these in italics so I knew when to start skimming. His debut The Bellwether Revivals (2012) was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Book Prize, and won France's Prix du Roman Fnac. Travelling well beyond his earlier fiction, Wood has produced a tour de force that marks his creative arrival. Daniel is a huge fan and this trip is not only a long overdue chance to spend time with his father but it’s also an opportunity to visit the set and meet the stars of his favourite TV programme as Francis works on the show and has promised him a guided tour.

He is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and the author of the highly acclaimed debut novel The Bellwether Revivals. Whilst I appreciate that the story doesn’t end at the key event, but explores the aftermath and effect on our narrator’s life, the tone changed, morphing into a more prosaic and factual recount of many years. W]ith his third novel, A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better, Wood’s talent has burgeoned spectacularly. The first two thirds of this are a powerful depiction of the devastation caused when someone ‘flips their lid’. Elegant and disturbing … accomplished beautifully … highly suspenseful … a novel of expertly woven tension and frightening glimpses into the mind of the deranged other; a worthy successor to Wood’s excellent second novel, The Ecliptic .

A novel of expertly woven tension and frightening glimpses into the mind of the deranged other’ … Benjamin Wood. Whether he does it because of deep-seated psychotic rage, a sense of entitlement, a combination of the two, or something else entirely isn’t ever made clear, and doesn’t really need to be. The acclaimed author of The Ecliptic has written a novel of exceptional beauty about the bond between fathers and sons, and the invention and reconciliation of self—weaving a haunting story of lost innocence and love. His debut, THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS (2012), was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Book Prize, and won one of France's foremost literary awards, Le Prix du Roman Fnac.

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