Sunday, 10 May 2015

Harmless: A Novel by James Grainger

A Novel
by James Grainger

Trade Paperback, 288 pages

This is a fascinating book. The genre does seem to twist and turn as you read on, keeping you alert and guessing.

Starting off in a Bill Chill type reunion of old friends, some of which were better at keeping in touch than others. Most, seemingly through becoming parents and maturing (or not), somewhat suspect of each other. Old lusts, judgements, competitiveness and self-doubt surface in this seemingly idyllic setting for a weekend in the country together.

The prose is tight. The pacing as well. It all takes place in seeming real time - in fact in less than 24 hours.

At the end I would say it is a book about one man's personal journey while dealing with the biggest crisis one can imagine - and who he is at the end.


From the Back Flap:

Set over the course of a single day and night, Harmless is a tense, provocative, and psychologically astute first novel in the tradition of Herman Koch's The Dinner, Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, about a weekend reunion of old friends that takes a terrifying turn when two teenage girls go missing.

At a remote farm, a group of old friends gather to catch up, sit by the fire, and forget about their overworked lives. But a long weekend in the country is not Joseph’s idea of a good time -- not when he’s promised his ex-wife he'll use the occasion to talk to their troubled fourteen-year-old daughter, and not when the farm belongs to his former lover and her husband, Alex. Once best friends, Joseph and Alex are now estranged, with much left unspoken between them. As more guests arrive and the reunion unfolds, old rivalries, new pressures, and erotic tensions surface. But things take a terrifying turn when the adults return from a nostalgic drug-fuelled bender at sundown to discover their two teenage daughters are missing. As night descends and the girls remain unfound, Joseph and Alex decide to enter the surrounding woods together in search of their daughters. What the two men encounter in the wilderness will push them to confront how far they are willing to go to protect the ones they love.

By turns blackly comic, thought-provoking, and harrowing, Harmless introduces James Grainger as an unflinching observer of the way we live now, and exposes the dark impulses we conceal beneath the veneer of our modern lives.

JAMES GRAINGER's debut collection of stories, The Long Slide (2004), was the winner of the ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His reviews and articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, Quill & Quire, the Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Men's Fashion, Sharp, and Rue Morgue