Friday 7 July 2017

Book Review: Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

Last Updated: 02 June 2024

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett book cover

AD* | I am dying: it's a beautiful word. Like the long slow sigh of a cello: dying. But the sound of it is the only beautiful thing about it.

As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years, which have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small, unforgiving town and distant, punitive parents ensure that he is never allowed to forget the horrific mistake he made as a child. He has only two friends - his dog, Surrender, and the unruly wild boy, Finnigan, a shadowy doppelganger with whom the meek Gabriel once made a boyhood pact.

But when a series of arson attacks grips the town, Gabriel realises how unpredictable and dangerous Finnigan is. As events begin to spiral violently out of control, it becomes devastatingly clear that only the most extreme measures will rid Gabriel of Finnigan for good.

I've got to continue the trend begun by other bloggers when reviewing Surrender, and begin my review by saying how hard it is to review this book.

As a general rule of thumb, I try to steer clear of other blogger's reviews before I pick up a book, as I'm reading it, and until I have written my own review. But with books like this, it's difficult to stay away. You need to read other people's takes on the book and the events that unfold within its pages like wings from a bird's back (see, even I'm starting with the poetic imagery now!)

You need to see what others thought to at least try and obtain a coherent understanding of the wild ride of twists and turns that Surrender takes you on.

That is the precise reason why books like this one are so difficult to review. I can reveal very little of the plot unless I want to spoil it for you - and with a book this good, that's the last thing that I want to do.

However, twists, turns, surprises and unexpected reveals aside, it is the stunning writing that really sets Surrender apart. Every last detail is explained in perfect poetic prose, right from the start. It takes a chapter or so to get into the style, but once you do, it seems to fit the story like a glove. The story and the style are so closely linked; it would be impossible to have one without the other. 

But aside from that, the writing is just so beautiful. Hartnett's descriptions instantly transport you to the remote rural town of Mulyan - every sentence has a tale to tell about this forgotten outpost hidden away in the back of beyond. 

The characters join in, with the tale hinting but not telling about their lives, deeds and actions, all falling together into the melting pot of gossip, suspicion and close-mindedness that characterises small-town life. It's raw, it's honest, and it's unflinchingly close to believability. 

Dreamy, whimsical prose combined with a gritty, hard-hitting story and packed full of twists and turns, all confined to the boundaries of small-town life; Surrender truly is a novel like no other, and one which I'm sure will stick with me for many years to come.

Rating: 5 stars

Surrender is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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