“By the end of next summer, before the kids go back to school, I will kill my family.”
Based on the strength of the first sentence, I felt confident I would enjoy reading this book. Despite the wow factor of the opening line, I would quickly come to realize it was a mistake to assume the rest of the book would be equally captivating.
I have certain expectations for domestic thrillers; the main expectation being that it evokes the usual emotions one has when reading thriller novels. This book, for me, was akin to a lengthy character study that either left me feeling bewildered or bored—and I’ll do my best to explain why without spoiling anything important in the overall story.
The story is narrated entirely by Desmond (Des), whose focus (with few exceptions) is on his wife, Jenny, and their three children. The story is told in two timelines: one shows how they became a couple, while the other focuses on their family life and deteriorating relationship.
I typically enjoy reading stories told from a single point of view. In this case, however, it rapidly became tedious. Des isn’t simply narrating the story, he’s telling us every random thought that comes to mind, whether it has anything to do with current situations or not. The disjointed thought process may well be used to indicate Desmond’s disturbed frame of mind, but it’s mind-numbingly dull to see his thoughts wander aimlessly about through so much of the book.
Another thing I didn’t care for is the lack of traditional dialogue one expects to see in a novel. Instead, Des tells readers what happened. ‘I told Jenny this, and she said that, so then I said another thing, then Jenny said something else.’ No tone attached to it, no emotion (other than Desmond’s). Nothing but a recitation of what was said.
As it became clear where things were headed near the end, Desmond’s aforementioned disjointed thoughts became even worse. While that is absolutely a believable consequence of his actions at that time, I felt it dragged the story down. Rather than the strong emotions I should have been feeling, I felt impatient and looked forward to finishing the book.
In my opinion, the story would have benefited greatly by being narrated by both Desmond and Jenny—and, indeed, would have made it feel more like a novel than a peek into a disturbed man’s mind. I truly would have liked the opportunity to see her point of view regarding the things Desmond said and did. Not having her side of the story made their entire relationship feel one-dimensional to me. If I could have seen things through her eyes, perhaps that wouldn’t have been the case.
Maybe this simply wasn’t the right book for me. The majority of early reviewers on Goodreads have only positive things to say about The Good Father. I seem to be the only one feeling dissatisfied with it, so this review is definitely full of unpopular opinions.
Edit (2/21/2020): I just noticed this book is referred to as a psychological suspense novel on Netgalley (below the book description). I have a feeling that may not have been there when I requested the book, however. In my Stacking the Shelves post that week, I stated one of the genres added was a domestic thriller, which was a reference to this book.
While I’ve adjusted the genre in the book details below, I won’t edit my review. Although I could easily replace “domestic thriller” with “psychological suspense”, but I specifically mentioned the genre I thought I was reading only once, and it wasn’t the focus of my criticism about the book. Therefore, I feel it doesn’t impact the overall review to leave it as written.
Author: Catherine Talbot
Title: A Good Father
Domestic Thriller Psychological Suspense
Publication Date: April 23rd 2020 by Penguin UK
Rating: 2 stars
About the Book
“When I hit her, which isn’t often, I am careful not to go too deep around her cheekbones because her cheekbones are a great feature of hers.”
Des is a good husband, a good father – a good man.
He encourages his wife’s artistic endeavours. He holds down a well-paid, if unfulfilling, job. He is manager of his sons’ Under-11s football team. He reads bedtime stories to his children every night.
But appearances can be deceptive, and behind closed doors secrets threaten to ruin everything.
Des is afraid…
He is afraid of the world encroaching on his family.
Afraid of past mistakes catching up on him.
Afraid of losing control.
Des is master of his home, and he must maintain his authority over it – and everyone in it – at all costs.
About the Author
CATHERINE TALBOT lives in Dublin with Dara and their two young children. Catherine is a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where she completed an MPhil in Creative Writing. She has had several short stories published, in Banshee Literary Journal and the anthology Still Worlds Turning. A Good Father is her first novel.