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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Son Of A Certain Woman

This story takes place in the dark shadow of the judgmental Catholic Church in 1950's St. John's Newfoundland. Percy Joyce is born with a disfiguring port wine stain on his face and grotesquely large hands and feet. He is the child of the beautiful and single Penelope whose fiancé left her before the child was born. Percy, like most men in the town, lusts after her.

I was drawn in at first. The book and its characters were engaging but something happened about one third of the way in. The local Archbishop takes Percy under his wing to ensure he isn't bullied or beaten up at school, and also decrees that corporal punishment will not be accepted no matter how he misbehaves. As Percy grows into his teen years he tests the rules and this draws the ire of Brother McHugh, director of the high school. The reason Percy's father abandoned his mother is revealed but the behaviour of the main characters remains inexplicable. Percy's sexual attraction to Penelope is creepy and her reaction to it is odd. McHugh is an arch villain who will stop at nothing to punish Penelope. He spies on her from his perch across the street and uses the information he gleans to insist that Percy be baptized. He also uses emotional blackmail to force her to marry the boarder to whom she has been selling sexual favours. The novel begins to smack of Victorian melodrama. Penelope, her lesbian lover, her besotted boarder and disabled son all quiver in fear when Brother McHugh tells them how it's going to go down. I thought Penelope should have told McHugh to fuck off. I finished it but admit to skipping over large bits that described Percy's religious training because I just wanted it all to be over. I don't recommend this book.

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