A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better

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A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better

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Benjamin is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at King's College London, where he founded the PhD in Creative Writing programme and teaches undergraduate fiction modules. Wood’s third novel is a gripping work, his chilling creation Francis Hardesty leaving an indelible mark. The day started with a pleasant enough breakfast: I made a pan of porridge and, as usual, teased her for the way that she pronounced it, pordge. I wanted to know how it could fit, this story of a young boy who suffers an asthma attack in a forest and is rescued by alien who appears like a batty old women using alien words and cooking strange potions.

I was completely transfixed by the tender and atmospheric writing that belies the violence bubbling beneath the surface. By the time Daniel recounts the worse I was gripping the book with both hands like I was afraid it would fly out of my grasp! The fact that the journey ends in disaster is spelled out clearly upfront, but you have read it unfold to find out exactly what transpires. Fran is an incurable womanising opportunist that has managed to destroy his marriage to Kath and consequently has been absent for most of Daniel’s life. Ostensibly a teeth-grinding, nerve-rattling thriller, albeit one that dips occasionally into nostalgia for a lost childhood that never was, via an almost inevitable predilection for a particular type of British children’s science fiction, now long deceased; and one that also features a lengthy road trip, encompassing a profound psychogeography of the English landscape and its highway system, almost redolent of the 1990s schlock thrill-kill indie movie Butterfly Kiss – its real purpose is to serve as a meditation on the persistence and unreliability of memory, particularly in relation to trauma, of being owned by your past: and the plugging of the gaps of such with convenient and tortuous fictive nuggets, delicious for those of us who wish to punish ourselves above all else, and the notion that the indescribability of experience will trump the facts every time, because the facts leave holes.This is all the more impressive since the narrative is filtered through a boy’s mind, so that mounting fear about the father’s violence is fused with pity for the son’s initial trust and subsequent appalled dismay . Wood’s brutal exploration of toxic masculinity urges you on to the bloody climax and leaves you grateful for the palate-cleansing coda that offers a closing note of redemption. There were other plot choices that I felt hadn’t been made the most of - for example, scattered throughout the story were excerpts from a children’s book, and whilst they had a literal place in the plot, I hoped the author would make more of them - there are some core similarities between our narrator’s story and that of this other book, but I hoped that would be explored in more detail - instead, it seemed to suddenly cut off towards the end, as though the author wasn’t entirely sure what to do with that strand.

Wood’s outstanding talent takes a different turn on this (almost) unbearably gripping, disturbing and heartrending road trip. Several more of these ominous sentences are scattered through the book; it’s not the gravest of authorial sins, but it’s never been a strategy I particularly like. On the road, Daniel listens to an Artifex audiobook, and passages from it augment the narrative but add nothing. The beginning of “A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better”, by Benjamin Wood, starts with dire foreshadowing and then whams you with a punch that absolutely requires that you keep reading this gripping psychological suspense novel. They can be amusing, resourceful when the need arises, but they are painfully susceptible to perceived insult and injury and, when the pressure is too great, they turn.When we meet Fran it is 1995 and he has come to fetch his son, Daniel, for a planned excursion to the television studio near Leeds where the boy’s favourite sci-fi series is filmed. The richly textured narrative is subtle and holds quiet power which entrances, draws you in and before you know it you are in its grip. I understand I can change my preference through my account settings or unsubscribe directly from any marketing communications at any time. This is a story charged with unpleasant energy, and I’m not sure you could get a trigger warning big enough to cover everything that happens in A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better (a horribly ironic title, especially once you know in what context that phrase is used). There is something about reading about crime or drama through the eyes of a child that makes it more terrifying and more unsettling.

Wood effectively creates a manipulative, shitty ex-husband and self-centered absentee father in Francis Hardesty; the opening pages, where he arrives to collect Daniel for a road trip whose purpose is, for a while, unclear, cement his unreliability in our minds. In particular, Daniel’s love of The Artifex – and his reliance on an audiobook of the story during the trip – acts as an anchor during scenes that are otherwise hard to endure. The prose is powerful and masterfully paced, the characters are real, and the author manages to bridge the gap between writing a harrowing thriller and a subtle inward-diving tale.The book is told from the point of view of twelve year old Daniel, who is on a road trip with his father, travelling north to visit a film set his father works at. If I have a major issue with A Station On the Path, it’s that it seems to be reaching for a moral weight with which to invest its horrors that doesn’t appear warranted. This appears to suggest that the only way to avoid catastrophe is to endure a narrow, self-limiting existence, to keep one’s head down and play safe. Impossible not to become entranced with the story told by first person narrator Daniel, of the trip he took with his largely-absent father, Francis, in 1995 when Daniel was twelve. Since making the critics stand to attention with the narrative force of first The Bellwether Revivals then The Ecliptic , Benjamin Wood has been very much a novelist to watch.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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