Hannah Byrne found Catherine Talbot's debut novel about domestic control to be an exquisite piece of writing...
Des is a good father, and from an outside perspective some may even consider him to be the perfect man. He is married to Jenny and the couple have three children: Maeve, the eldest and twin boys Mikey and Joey. Their family life may seem idyllic to the outside world, but looks can be deceiving as we find out in the first sentence.
By the end of next summer, before the kids go back to school, I will kill my family.
Narrated by Des, the novel moves between 1995, where Des and Jenny first fall in love, and to the present day in 2016. The beginning of the couple's relationship is filled with youthful hope and passion, but it does not take long before we learn about the rage of the paterfamilias. As the kids become less dependent on him as a father and as Jenny becomes more focused on her artwork, we see Des beginning to let obsessive and aggressive behaviour take over.
This behaviour takes both a physical and mental toll on his wife. It causes her to become obsessed with her artwork and less interactive with her family.
Des does love his wife, but he has an overwhelming feeling of jealousy when he believes he is losing her and the love that they once had. The rare outbursts of violence and abuse that we saw at the beginning of their relationship become more frequent, as Des loses control. It is not a matter of if the bomb will explode, but when.
Your reviewer did feel a certain lack of compassion towards Jenny, into whose mind I would have liked an insight at certain points. Adding her perspective could have afforded the readers a better understanding of their relationship - and why she stayed with Des.
That said, the novel is an exquisite piece of writing, so vivid in detail that at certain moments, particularly the ending, the story is difficult to actually take on board due to the strong imagery. The final page left me stunned as if I had yet to read the great reveal on page one.