I finished reading Ian’s Story almost two weeks ago now and resisted the urge to review it straight away – not because I did not enjoy it but because I wanted to do it justice.
Quite frankly, my initial reaction to Ian’s Story was a sort of stunned ‘oh my god’. It really is that good. Not until later did my brain kick in to tell me why it was so good. Not since reading Crime and Punishment have I read a psychological novel that delved so deeply into the psyche of a flawed man or made me feel so much compassion for a fictional character.
Ian is flawed and he does end up making an awful mistake, one that teeters on the edge of legal paedophilia, yet in exploring how and why he got to that point, Stephen Faulds makes it possible for us to forgive Ian even though he cannot seem to forgive himself.
Do no make the mistake of thinking that this novel is a justification or apology for paedophilia – it’s not. Just as Crime and Punishment is not a justification for murder, Ian’s Story is not a justification – its a journey, a journey that explores the crime, the punishment and the salvation that can result from such a descent into hell.
Following Ian on this journey is not a casual read. You will not dip into this book on a rainy weekend when you have nothing better to do. It will grab you and it will not let you go until the very last page because, for all his flaws, Ian’s life will resonate with anyone who has ever searched for meaning in life, anyone who has ever been trapped by duty and the desire to ‘do the right thing’, anyone who has ever been lonely or fallen in love with an unattainable mirage. In short, anyone with a heartbeat and human DNA.
On the technical side I might argue with Stephen Faulds about how he structured the story yet when I sat down and thought about how I would have restructured it [were I an editor] I found that I could not really think of a ‘better’ way of doing it. So I have to say that the structure is a little quirky but will make sense at the end. I should add that this quirkiness does not detract from the story or my enjoyment of it.
I cannot fault Stephen Faulds in the area of prose either. His words flowed effortlessly from start to finish with no jarring ‘what the…?’ moments. To be honest I stopped being aware of the ‘prose’ after the first few paragraphs because it did what all good prose should do – it drew me in and carried me along without drawing attention to itself. I did not read about Ian, I saw him, I saw his poor troubled wife, I saw the emotionally impoverished life they lead. Only when I put the book down for the last time did I become aware of how beautiful the words had been.
There is nothing indie about Ian’s Story. It is the work of a mature writer who knows what he’s doing and does it extraordinarily well. More importantly, Ian’s Story has a depth that will appeal to anyone interested in what makes us all human.
Very highly recommended.