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The Fractured Man by Juliet Conlin
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The Fractured Man

by Juliet Conlin

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In 1920s London, the population was still reeling from the twin shocks of the Great War and the flu epidemic. An entire generation of young men have been shattered in mind and body. Against this backdrop, an ambitious young psychoanalyst explores the emerging field of graphology: peering into his patients’ broken minds by way of their handwriting…

The Fractured Man is a sophisticated blend of psychological investigation coupled with social commentary, pitched at a particularly interesting and oft-overshadowed moment in history. The central character’s fascination with graphology and all it reveals was intriguing and informative; the author cleverly contrasts this brave new science of the (open) mind with the cripplingly closed society of the professional and upper classes.

In an increasingly feverish and claustrophobic atmosphere, the author develops a slow-burn representation of a fragmenting mind, one which weaves together threads from a troubled childhood, sibling rivalry, parental oppression and the horrors of war. At times the narrative is so gothic that it almost feels like it was written a hundred years ago. It’s certainly similar in style to the eerie ghost stories of a bygone age; if you liked Woman In Black then this should similarly entertain you.

I particularly liked one of the supporting characters, Stanislav, an Eastern European with a chequered past who provides a solid anchor in the midst of uncertainty and flat-out weirdness. I also enjoyed the sequences which take place in Russia, after WW1 has officially finished and which provide a suitably chilling backdrop for confrontation and disintegration. The journey by ship into Arctic waters, trapped by freezing ice, is wonderfully, queasily and bloodily described.

The Fractured Man is let down a little by its editing (odd use of punctuation and changing spelling of characters' names). The ending, billed as ‘a shocking conclusion’ was nothing of the sort. The final plot twist felt inevitable sometime around the halfway point.

Interestingly, the lack of any great suspense and a flabbergasting finale didn’t affect my enjoyment of the overall story. The plot was resolved in a consistent and credible manner which certainly fulfilled my expectations.

So while I wouldn’t say that The Fractured Man is an entirely successful debut novel, it was more than good enough for me to hope that author Juliet Conlin cracks on with the next one. I’ll look out for it.

7/10 ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
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