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Author Topic: "Flesh & Blood" by John Harvey  (Read 24682 times)
norby
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« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2007 »

I'm still not sure that Susan is entirely to blame for the decision to run off with her father, and certainly not for the affair with her teacher.  I recently read a book that discussed the evidence showing that the hormonal changes a young woman goes through during puberty greatly affect her thinking and brain development.  It's not like the development of boys.  Every time there is a hormonal shift, the brain is literally bathed in the new hormone, causing a huge shift in the way the girl thinks and acts.  And that's not even taking into account the infamous self-absorption and impulsiveness of teenagers.  Susan's only thoughts would have been of herself and what she wants, not her mother, or the future.

I find it interesting that no one has any sympathy for the way Susan's life ended up, yet are full of sympathy for Shane.  Is it because it seems that Susan made her own choices?  Although it could be argued that Shane did too.  You have two people who both hurt people badly (in vastly different ways, true), but get very different reactions from readers.  Undecided
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TonyK
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« Reply #31 on: February 27, 2007 »

In the whole book there really aren't that many people to feel symapthy for. Everyone bar Elder's daughter and Susan's mother seem to pretty much bring on everything coming to them. Even Elder can be held culpable in the sense that if he had let the case go when he retired then his daughter would not have been targetted. Even the fair owners exploit runaways in a sense.
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Beyond Help Beyond Redemption

norby
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« Reply #32 on: February 27, 2007 »

In the whole book there really aren't that many people to feel symapthy for. Everyone bar Elder's daughter and Susan's mother seem to pretty much bring on everything coming to them. Even Elder can be held culpable in the sense that if he had let the case go when he retired then his daughter would not have been targetted. Even the fair owners exploit runaways in a sense.

Interesting point.  You could even argue that if Susan's mother had been more honest with Susan about her father that Susan may not have been as tempted to go with him, but maybe not.
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Jayne
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« Reply #33 on: February 27, 2007 »

Like many of you, I was a John Harvey virgin up until reading Flesh and Blood. I loved it from start to finish - the author's writing style, the truly believable characters and also the short chapters. I like short chapters!

I loved Shane and found I wanted to mother him - to run his bath, fetch his slippers and cook him a decent meal. Such was my affection for him, that I honestly think I would have stood by him no matter what he might have done, as most mothers would do with their sons/daughters. When he attacked Eve, rather than feeling angry with him, I found I was making excuses for his behaviour. I was still very much on his side, I'm surprised to say, and he was definitely my favourite character.

Like a few readers, I know many of the places that were mentioned in the book and I've driven the roads. I enjoyed reading about towns and cities that are very close to where I live (Barnsley). As a child, I had many wonderful holidays in Cornwall so I was quite familiar with that part of the country too.

I'm really pleased I've discovered a new author - thanks to this book club - and I look forward to reading more of John's work. And I have to say, I absolutely love the caravan picture on the cover of Flesh and Blood - that's probably due to my long-time fascination with fairs, gypsies and travellers.

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betty
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« Reply #34 on: February 27, 2007 »

I agree Norby that at seventeen and a half Susan may well have been a bit confused, especially having spent most of her life thinking her stepfather was really her father - but in ten years would she not have become less confused and sent a card to explain to her mother where she was.  Also any sympathy I have for Shane vanished as soon as he attacked Angel's foster mother - his true self shone through IMO - he's a bully and dosen't care what he has to do to get what he wants.  I like Frank Elder - I think Susan's disappearance obviously stayed with him and I suppose the chance to possibly close the case drove him. 
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"Life may not be the party we hoped for...
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norby
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« Reply #35 on: February 27, 2007 »

I think by the time Elder went to visit Susan in New Zealand (was that where?), I was pretty much finished with the book.  It felt like the story was over and really I had almost forgotten about Susan, like she was that case that unfortunately you just never know what happened to the girl.

I don't by any means excuse her behavior after she's been away for awhile.  As she aged she should have realized what her mother was going through and made contact.  On the other hand, would her father have tried to keep her childlike and under his control so that he could have the parental experience he felt he missed out on.  Also, there are those few people who just never seem to grow up.  Who never seem to move out of that teenage view of the world.

Not that I necessarily believe that or any of the things I've argued, I just like playing devil's advocate!  It's why I did so well in debate class! Wink Wink
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A critical oversight that has led to yet another mouthful of poo.

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Jez
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« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2007 »

quote author=Jayne link=topic=948.msg25773#msg25773 date=1172612176]
I absolutely love the caravan picture on the cover of Flesh and Blood - that's probably due to my long-time fascination with fairs, gypsies and travellers.

[/quote]
[
just in case you're in need of more of the same, the book I finished just before starting Flesh and Blood was Call me the Breeze by Patrick McCabe - that had a caravan on the cover too!
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Linda L
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« Reply #37 on: February 28, 2007 »

Reading through the posts and everyones thoughts on Flesh and Blood.  To me all the comments and opinions mean it is a good well written book. I have only read 3 books by John but they are just such a pleasure to read.  I love a book that as soon as you are a few lines in you just know it is going to be an enjoyable read with characters and plots that are believable and dialogue that transports you to that time and setting.  i know a book is a winner when I have"lost" sense of time as I have been so absorbed.  i can count on one hand the authors who do that for me and John Harvey is one of them.
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Jayne
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« Reply #38 on: February 28, 2007 »

Thanks, Gungho - I've made a note of that book. Ottaker's here I come!
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Sonia
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« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2007 »

What disturbed me a lot was that this initial police-investigation about the Susan Blacklock disappearance seems to have gone horribly wrong. Or at least they didn't put much effort into it, it seems.

I mean, how can it otherwise be explained, that they didn't find out about this real father of hers ? And what did the mother think at that moment by not mentioning him ? Surely it would have been crucial. If the police had pursued that line of inquiry, they would have found Susan back then. It could all have been so easy.

Now, after some 15 years or so, Elder found out about the liaison with the teacher, about the crush of the fellow student, about her real father. All this should have been discovered back then. Didn't that strike you as odd too ? Somebody had botched up big time back then, I suppose. Or maybe they were just too eager to tie it all up with the Shane Donald case.

Unfortunately, I guess reality is reflected here. Not every detective is as efficient in real life as they seem to be in books.
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rockrebel
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« Reply #40 on: February 28, 2007 »

Sonia you're right. They were so keen to pin Susan's disappearance on McKiernan and Donald that they didn't investigate properly. If I remember rightly Elder actually admits that at one point
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rock & roll will never die

rockrebel
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« Reply #41 on: February 28, 2007 »

You can go off people you know H  Wink Elder is about my age  Cry
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rock & roll will never die

rockrebel
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« Reply #42 on: February 28, 2007 »

Haha Gotcha ! Only joking mate. I used to think the same way when I was a young whippersnapper like you  Cheesy
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rock & roll will never die

Sonia
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« Reply #43 on: February 28, 2007 »

Maybe it's me still thinking it's disgusting that oldsters have sex urgh, its like your parents having sex, it's, just wrong, even though at 38 I'm still thinking the same thing I thought when I was in my 20's, but no one has mentioned the sex bit of the book.  Now I know Susan's mother is only in her late 40's, but for some reason she seemed so much older, probably aged by the disappearance opf her daughter, and I'm sorry but I can't remember how old Elder is supposed to be in the book.......... but that was the only part of the book where I thought eww, revolting, and turned over quickly.  It wasn't done in a touching way at all, and I just didn't like it, urgh.  I realise anyone over a certain age is going to be shaking their heads at my reaction, but we are supposed to be giving our opinion of the book and that's one of mine.  Sorry.   Lips sealed

Course you're entitled to your opinion. Actually that's not a problem of mine though. Neither the "parents having sex" thing. For me it's "live and let live" or more accurately "love and let love" Wink

I actually like the private lives of the main characters in the books. And it's always revealing to read how they behave, especially in intimate relationships. For me, Elder and Helen Blacklock reacted the way they did, because probably they had to cope with this ordeal of Susan's disappearance. It's frustration, anger and sadness that's built up over a long time. They probably felt related because of the crisis they lived through. That's what made them go to bed together I suppose.

It would also explain why Helen B. finished the relation after they found out where Susan was. Somehow, the need for Elder died with that realization then. Or maybe she blamed him for finding her. That part I didn't quite like though. It was almost as if she wanted to go on mourning for a dead daughter, instead of coping with having a living one, having enjoyed her life without a thought for her. But maybe that reaction is a bit understandable in a way too.
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john harvey
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« Reply #44 on: February 28, 2007 »

Sorry to have left it so long before coming on board. As Mark said, I've had an unusually busy couple of days. [I've also just spent 20 minutes filling in one of these quick reply pieces and somehow deleted it before it was sent. I think!] But I'm delighted at the enthusiasm people have shown for the book and the amount of discussion it's engendered. It's not easy for me to get back into a book I wrote four or five years ago, partly in London, partly in New Zealand - especially as I never re-read one of my books, but here goes.

The main talking point seems to be about Shane and the degree to which one feels sympathy for him or not. It may be of interest, in this connection, to know that there was no character such as Angel at the planning stage and that it wasn't until I got to the first fairground scene that she materialised - I just needed someone there for him to notice and react to. But once she was there, she brought out - and enabled me to bring out, whichever way round you want to look at it - aspects of Shane's character that neither he nor I knew were there before. She enabled me to make him a far more full-rounded character though the way he struggles to respond to her love for him - in the end, he can't ever quite lose the violence and aggression that has become so much a part of himself and it's when Angel realises this that she does what she does. But Angel was a Godsend [no, I'm not a bit religious] and improved the book no end, without her it would have been far less interesting and, I think, less moving.

Someone mentioned the degree to which the book seems to be about fathers and daughters,parents and children, and wondered if I were conscious of that or if it just crept up on me. [I'm paraphrasing.] When I first wrote about Elder in a short story called Drive North [I think] what interested me was a short scene between him and his wife and daughter when the daughter is 12 and they are first thinking of moving to Nottingham, and that's what I wanted to explore more in Flesh & Blood. Their relationship is at the heart of the three Elder books and when I felt I'd taken that as far as I could for the present by the end of the third book, Darkness & Light, that was when I knew I didn't want to take the series any further.

Someone said they found it hard to sympathise with the characters because they all - or mostly all - brought their troubles on them through their own actions. [I hope I've got that right] For me, that would be THE reason to sympathise with them. Isn't that what we all do? We make a wrong move, say the wrong thing, buy the wrong ticket for the wrong destination on the wrong day and then we and those around us have to find a way of living with the consequences.

Does Elder say the wrong things at times to Katherine, deal with her poorly, yes, of course he does. Fathers do. Parents do. It's part of being human. It doens't mean he isn't  trying or that he doesnt' care - he simply finds it hard, It IS hard.

That's all for now. Maybe more later.

John
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