I’ve been wanting to read The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell since it came out over a year ago. I’m still on the waiting list at the library! So when I saw that her latest, Closed Doors, was available through NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.
Closed Doors is set on a small island off the west coast of Scotland. Told from the point of view of an eleven year old boy, it recounts his perceptions of what is going on behind the closed doors in his own house and throughout the small community in which he lives. Initially, one is lead to believe that the secret behind the closed doors of the narrator’s own house is spousal abuse and in spite of the mother’s hospital stay, this is not the case. Something far more sinister is afoot, and it effects the whole island community.
I was truly impressed by O’Donnell’s writing and storytelling abilities. Her subtle use of Scottish dialect immediately established a sense of place without falling into impenetrable slang. Her pacing was impeccable, unraveling the story bit by bit. I read the novel quickly and never wanted to put it down.
I am not overly fond of stories told from the point of view of children. That is the one thing that I didn’t really like about the novel. It is merely a stylistic choice O’Donnell made that I do not necessarily agree with. I would have been happier if the naive observations of a child had been broken up with commentary from one or more of the other characters. By way of contrast, in Golden Boy (review) Tarttelin employs a child as one of several narrators. This makes the child’s observations more profound by contrasting them with others, rather than tiresome and twee.
Who would like this book? Regardless of whether or not you like Scottish literature, I highly recommend this novel. The small town setting is somewhat universal (unless you are from a big city). One of the most important facets of the novel is concern about what others will think. In a small town everyone seems to know everyone else’s business and moreover, has an opinion on it. This certainly comes through in O’Donnell’s story.