This is an impressive and intriguing psychological novel, whose undercurrent of violence/threat and sexual tension reminded me of some of Ian McEwan’s work.
Although he may sound like a hopeless case, Richard, the central character, proves to be an engaging and sympathetic narrator, with a keen observational sense and a high degree of self-awareness. This prevents him from wallowing in self-pity and allows him to see the occasionally humorous side of his own predicament.
And then there is the question of how much of what we are reading is actually real. After all, here we have a central character who spends quite a lot of his time wandering around Durleston Wood, sometimes holding imaginary conversations with previous girlfriends from long ago - so who’s to say that certain parts of the novel presented as “reality” aren’t in fact an elaborate fantasy on his part? Come to that, who’s to say that the entire novel isn’t essentially a symbolic representation of competing impulses battling it out in Richard’s head ?
For me, this ambiguity made “In Durleston Wood” all the more complex and intriguing. But you can just as easily take it at face value and read it as a more straightforward mystery/romance. For a longer review, see:
(review of free book)