A quick rundown… The story of two families, each searching for something different. They are caught up in a horrific crime – will it give them the courage to change their lives?
Strengths: A page-turner that had me hoping that justice would prevail.
Weaknesses: Took me a little while to work out who was who and where they fit.
Why I read it: Sent to me by Random House Australia – thank you!
Pages: 192 (eBook ARC)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Burned is an extraordinary book – it pulls you in slowly and you don’t realise that you’re hooked until you’re unable to break away. I found this book a quick read for that very reason. I couldn’t wait to find out if justice would prevail and if the characters would come to make the decisions they were reluctant to face.
But let me backtrack a little. Initially, I found this book a little puzzling. I think that was because of the first chapter, which is set in the year 2037. Readers of my other reviews would know I’m not a sci-fi fan! The contents of the chapter didn’t seem too unrealistic, but still… I ended up preserving and was rewarded. The first chapter makes perfect sense once you’ve read the book. For me, I think it would have been a good epilogue to cement that one character in particular did achieve his dream. Whatever way you like it, I can confirm that there is no sci-fi in this book. It’s all based in reality.
But is it a reality that we actually want? In the modern era, violence has become a backdrop to our daily lives. Burned takes a somewhat shocking event – a homeless man being intentionally set on fire – and looks at it through the eyes of two families and their children. Noah is the lonely child of Kate, who dreams of being an astronaut and hoping that one day, he might find that his dad didn’t die in an accident. Kate is feeling increasingly awkward about Noah being without a father (not to mention that she and her husband had split previously). She’s wondering if she can find the peace in Sydney as she did when she first met Rich… The other family is a more traditional unit – Frankie, a friend of Noah’s and fiercely loyal to him despite her adoration of another boy in her class; David, a policeman caught up in the shocking case and his wife Lydia, who dreams of a life away from her busy job. Once you’re familiar with each of these characters, more are thrown to the mix – the perpetrator of the vicious crime and his family. This one event will affect each of the characters, some in spectacular fashion.
At times the book is a family drama, at other times it reads like a psychological thriller. There are moments that had me choked up (especially between Kate and Noah) and others gasping in horror. I could say that it is like The Dinner (review coming soon), but with a cast of warm characters that you will care about. Towards the end, I was smiling when things seemed to be working out for my favourite characters. The portrayal of the two different settings (Salisbury, UK and Sydney, Australia) through Kate’s eyes was wonderful – Nicholas beautifully captured the feelings of greyness and sunshine, then linked them to Kate’s emotions.
A wonderful novel by a debut author, combining a human warmth with the chill when things go wrong.