Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Guilty One

Today I went on a little trip to St Andrews University to listen to a talk by the author Lisa Ballantyne about her debut novel 'The Guilty One'. This is where I have to put my hand up wearing my guilty face because *whispers* I didn't finish reading the book. In fact, I think I got to around chapter ten, and then skipped to the end...


Obviously the English department at St Andrews were interested in getting us interested in them. They very kindly paid to get us all there and sent us free copies of Lisa's book. To be fair, they did put on a good show, not only that but Lisa gave a very interesting talk. I have to admit I did have my doubts before she started speaking, though thankfully I could immediately put them aside. Lisa's talk was not only entertaining; she managed to capture the attention of a bunch of high school students for half an hour. Let me tell you now, that is no easy feat.


To be honest, I feel pretty guilty about not finishing the book, as Lisa had obviously poured so much time and effort in to it. She told us during the question and answer round at the end of the talk that it had taken her 12 months to complete the novel. At one point, about half way through, she hit a brick wall and found she literally couldn't write another word. This was because she had created a main character (Daniel Hunter) whose job she didn't have a clue about. Seeing as Daniel was a criminal solicitor and Lisa was pretty vague at that point on what a criminal solicitor actually did, she went and tracked one down and quizzed him on his job. She even took a trip to London to research the area where the murder (and there is a murder in this book) was committed. 


I realise I'm doing this in a slightly backwards fashion, but I'm going to quote the book's blurb:

'Daniel Hunter has spent years defending lost causes as a solicitor in London. But his life changes when he is introduced to Sebastian, an eleven-year-old accused of murdering an innocent young boy.'

'As he plunges into the muddy depths of Sebastian's troubled home life, Daniel thinks back to his own childhood in foster care - and to Minnie, the woman whose love saved him, until she, too, betrayed him so badly that he cut her out of his life.'

'But what crime did Minnie commit? And will Daniel's identification with a child on trial for murder make him question everything he ever believed in?'


I'd also better tell you what I think of the book so far. Well, in all I think the characters are very believable, with Sebastian's cold nature perfectly mimicking that of a sociopath. Minnie also seems to have the most redeeming features out of all of the characters even though she did wrong Daniel. However, the plot is shaping up to be a little bit predictable and at times the description can be quite clunky. It's also quite a fast and easy read, so probably a good book for the weekend or a short holiday. I would recommend The Guilty One as a summer read.


Anyway, after Lisa's talk all the high schoolers went out to terrorise the (surprisingly clean) streets of St Andrews town for a bite to eat. When we returned we took part in a question and answer exploration of the book and it's themes with a fourth year English student. We were also encouraged to ask question about St Andrews Uni and were told plenty about its many strange traditions. For example, the May dip and third year parents.


All in all it was a very pleasant day out!