Robert Williams - How the Trouble Started (3 stars)

Robert Williams - How the Trouble Started

Luke and Jon author's absorbing second novel returns to theme of childhood and delves into mindset of troubled 16-year-old boy


Boy next door, monster or both? Robert Williams returns to the theme of childhood for the follow-up to his award-winning debut Luke and Jon, and this compelling story of fractured families and kids that don’t fit is told with the light, unfussy flair that we’ve come to expect from the Manchester-based author. And How the Trouble Started is all the more affecting for it.

Donald Bailey is a deeply disturbed 16-year-old, haunted by the past and ‘the trouble’ which resulted in the death of a toddler. Characters grapple with silent fury, and are tormented by guilt. We’re inside Donald’s head from the off, immediately absorbed by the fast-paced thoughts and fears that fill his mind as he’s forced to face the consequences that propel him towards yet more tragedy.

But by skilfully avoiding the temptation to over-play the huge questions posed by this novel about innocence, morality, parenting and society, Williams’ subtle stylistic approach results in an engrossing read that resonates and moves rather than scandalises.

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