Before and After
I was drawn to Rosellen Brown’s novel because it is written from an unusual combination of viewpoints. It begins with a crime – the murder of a seventeen year old girl – which is seen from the points of view of the mother and father and sister of the boy who is responsible. The quirk is that the father’s point of view is first person male and the mother and sister’s third person. I am particularly interested in viewpoint at the moment and wondered what I could learn and how she got away with this. And she DID get away with it. The book made the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list. Once I was into the novel, I soon got used to the shifting viewpoints and it turned out to be one of those books that you don’t want to stop reading. There is never much doubt that the boy is guilty, and the considerable suspense lies in the contrasting attitudes of the parents and how these will effect the outcome of the trial. The father’s instinct is cover up for his son, the mother’s is to let the truth prevail and I found myself being swayed first by one argument and another. It has only just occurred to me as I write this that Brown may have chosen the first person for the father as a more persuasive way of presenting an argument that on the face of it is unacceptable.
At any rate, she writes superbly and this is a terrific read. A tour-de-force.