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Golden Child by Claire Adam. A book review by Freencky Portas

By Ian G Evans, on 10 May 2019

Mere minutes after finishing Golden Child, I decided to sit down and write my thoughts on it. What can I say? This book is both beautiful and subtlety tragic. It is of no surprise that Golden Child has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Set in rural Trinidad, the story follows the life of a working-class family. In a modest home, Clyde Deyalsingh is trying his best to build a better future for his family. He and his wife Joy have twins, Peter and Paul.

Although identical, Peter and Paul are completely different in personality and character. Peter is described from a very young age as very special. He is the Golden Child who tops every exam and proves time and time again his intellectual superiority. Peter dreams of winning the Golden Medal, a competition that will supply him with enough money to study in America.

Paul, on the other hand, is depicted as an afterthought for those around him. He is labelled by both his family and others as ‘slightly retarded’. Although clearly hindered intellectually, Paul is really just a shy boy who daydreams of having a life of his own and ceasing to be a disappointment to his father any longer.

The plot commences with the disappearance of the thirteen-year-old Paul, which leaves Clyde both worried and irritated. The story continues with a three-act structure in which the author delves deep into the roots of what caused the disappearance of Paul. The book explores the hardships of fatherhood and the difficulties involved in living in a corrupt environment. This all culminates in the third act of the story, when Clyde is faced with a very difficult decision to make in which he must decide on which son to save.

This story was engaging from start to finish, focusing more on the characters than the hair-raising elements that are so common in the thriller genre today. Each chapter was subtlety gripping and intriguing. My only displeasure was with the lack of female representation. The most prominent female character in the story is Paul’s mother, Joy. Joy plays the stereotypical medieval mother with relatively little opinion, drive, or personality. I would have liked to see more of her rage and persona especially during the disappearance of one of her sons.

Otherwise, Golden Child was exceptional, leaving the reader with a lot to think and analyse even after the pages of the book come to an end.

Freencky Portas

Golden Child is published by Faber & Faber

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