Reviewed by Paul Kane
Courage of Fear
By Barbara Boyer
Paperback: 188 pages, December 20, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0615203638
Barbara Boyer’s debut novel is an unusual love story, or an unusual story wherein love – pace Symposium and Diotima – takes a starring role. At its centre is a somewhat precious relationship between Angela and Jackson, Boyer’s two principal characters, and the novel touches on issues such as loss and bereavement, return to the world and rebirth. Overall, it’s a rocky ride, but a rewarding one.
The story is told in 49 relatively short chapters, most 2 or 3 pages long, each a discrete narrative strand. The sharp intercutting of perspective generally serves to heighten suspense, and it moves the story along effectively enough. However, toward the end of chapter 31 it is overused; this feels like the remnants of a screenplay.
There’s a metaphysical dimension to Boyer’s story, and the reality in which it takes place is intriguing – again, pace Symposium and Diotima. But even if you don’t buy into the author’s romanticism, there’s a down-to earth grittiness to enjoy; though one would have liked to see more of this. ‘Get off the cross, honey. We need the wood’ is Martha’s priceless, and fully warranted, advice to the sometimes (IMHO) insufferable Angela. In general, Boyer’s minor characters (and Martha, Lizzie and Sammy in particular) are a triumph.
Courage of Fear is a fascinating offering from a writer with an already individual voice. Read it to be in there on the ground floor, for it is a sure harbinger of much good work to follow.
About the reviewer:Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at email@example.com