In 1966, Vincent is born, the son of a dustman and housewife, brother of Frank. An ordinary family, you would say. Slowly, with the passing of the years, their family story is told – we witness a harrowing life in the shadow of a dark past…
Dark Lives #1
When Vincent is 14, his father suffers a stroke. This changes the whole dynamic of the family. The elder son, Frank, is the strong one who joked with their father, a “big, strong man” and “immovable presence” in their family. A father who handles him roughly, Frank can handle that, but being around a sick old man, just a fraction of the impressive Alfa male of their home is something quite different.
To Vincent, the brother who was cuddled by his mother and whose relationship with his parents is more emotional, the new situation fits like a glove. He takes care of his father and is able to support his mother as a matter of course. As do the rest of the family, Vincent lives by their motto “I did what had to be done.”
Vincent and Frank are basically alike but as different as you can imagine. Where Frank is a tough-looking guy who instils respect (or at least fear), Vincent is someone nobody recognises – a boy inviting you to bully him. It comes as no surprise that he has no friends and that he needs his elder brother, Frank, to keep him safe in school. Due to an accident, Vincent has no memory of his first seven years and he is a bit of a loner. His only consolation is reading books that provide him with insights into human nature and with a diversity of action, human characteristics and emotions.
Looking after his father and mother ensures Vincent is even more isolated from the world around him but somehow, this does not concern him much. His mother, however, insists he takes a little holiday to Cromer, on the Norfolk coast. This trip turns the boy into a man and changes Vincent’s life – never before has he been happier.
No wonder Vincent wants to share a future with Sarah, the young woman he fell in love with in Cromer. About a year later, upon their mother insisting that they should go out together, Vincent and Frank are on their way to Cromer, only to discover Sarah is nowhere to be found. Something happens that evening, both in Cromer as at home, each event having devastating consequences that will only be clear years later.
When Vincent is twenty years old, his mother dies – defeated – and he feels afraid. He is all alone in the world because Frank has disappeared. Vincent is in fear of the place, with no one to talk to. We follow him on a fascinating journey through life where the situations in which he finds himself are characteristic of the person he is and the person he desperately wants to become.
All his life, Vincent strives to do the right thing as opposed to his brother Frank, the one who is uncontrollable at times, aggressive even, although never towards Vincent. He is all Vincent has but with him absent so often, is it enough?
I LOVED Fifty Years of Fear. The story is touching and heartbreaking – and you dive into the world of the two boys and their parents. Their family is an island in a world where people on the outside judge and take harsh actions. They are strongly connected, Vincent and Frank and their parents. At home, they are safe but at school and in other places, Frank is always the protector of Vincent, a true elder brother.
Slowly Vincent’s life and the family history are unravelled and with each insight, new questions arise. It is so difficult to say more for fear of giving away this excellently written and cunningly construed psychological novel. I am in awe of what Ross Greenwood shows us here and how he never interferes the narration with a judgemental point of view.
This book is extremely difficult to review and to categorise because it has so much. I think it is a brilliant literary work of fiction and I highly recommend Fifty Years of Fear.
About Ross Greenwood
Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world. Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 meters from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.”
All his books are thought-provoking and told with a sense of humour. Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.
Fifty Years of Fear is available at Amazon
|Publisher||Ross Greenwood (1 Oct. 2017)|