The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

For some reason, I’ve been on a dark(ish) thriller reading binge and remembered I had this best seller waiting for me on my Kindle.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Smith was interviewed on NPR where he described his family’s real life crisis which was the genesis for The Farm.

From the interview introduction:  In the spring of 2009, British author Tom Rob Smith received a disturbing phone call from his father. “And he was crying,” Smith tells NPR’s David Greene. “He never cries. And he said to me, ‘You’ve got to come to Sweden. Your mom has suffered a psychotic episode, and she’s in an asylum.’ ” Then, Smith’s mother called. She had just been released from the psychiatric hospital in Sweden, and she said everything his father had told him was a lie.

The Farm is about a couple who, like Mr. Smith’s actual parents, retire to the idyllic Swedish countryside.  As the novel unfolds, Tilde the mother, has just recently been released from a mental ward and she is carefully and methodically telling her story to her son Daniel.   She reveals puzzling circumstances — how she, and his father Chris, moved to the farm, not to fulfill their dreams, but because they had gone bankrupt, losing all their investments in a  real estate scheme.  Tilde’s story gets darker and more irrational, the crimes she’s witnessed, the conspiracies around her, and how she has been deemed a madwoman.

Tilde’s story is filled with fear and paranoia– sprinkled with some Scandinavian evil (including some shiver-worthy Nordic troll fairy stories). Tilde is a true unreliable narrator  –or is she? How much is true and how much is imagined?  Why was she admitted for psychiatric observation, and was it justified? 

 “Paranoia might be a mental illness–or a means of survival.”

All these questions and more will whisper in the back of your head as you read The Farm. At first, I didn’t know what to make of the odd structure of this book, but it gradually caught me up in its web.  

The plot does not unfold in real time and there are stories within stories, but Mr. Smith does not let this get confusing.  It’s fast paced, suspenseful, and often smart.

“The people you think you have known all your life can be completely different, for different reasons that you have never known anything about.”

But I had some problems with The Farm.  The first was Tilde’s voice.  She is supposedly “telling” the story throughout the book, but Mr. Smith gives her sometimes unrealistic dialogue.  No one speaks like this:    “He was trying to soothe me as if I were a startled horse.” or   “As he emerged from the gloom of his underground lair.”  In the same vein, I just grew tired of the  singularity of Tilde’s voice —  it goes on for over 200 pages.  Mr. Smith breaks it up with Daniel’s point of view, but not nearly enough to prevent the story line from occasionally becoming snooze-worthy.

I hoped that finding the truth to this story was going to be tricky and astonishing, but sadly, I found the ending abrupt and obtuse.  As if the author couldn’t figure out how to work out the truth and so just closed the novel with a final incomprehensible chapter.  But then again, maybe life isn’t meant to be so neatly packaged.

The Farm is a suspenseful thriller, but with an unsettling ending – perhaps this is the author’s intent.

I think I’ll take a break from these dark thrillers for a bit.

 

A digital advanced readers copy was provided by Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

2 Comments

  1. Annie
    Apr 19, 2017

    I really liked this one. It’s one of my go-to mystery book recommendations.

    • BookBarmy
      Apr 19, 2017

      It was a very compelling read. As you can tell, I had mixed feelings.
      I added your blog to my favorite blogs list.
      Deborah

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *