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A Good and Happy Child: A Novel by Justin…
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A Good and Happy Child: A Novel (2007)

by Justin Evans

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I read this whole book, so it gets more than one star, but it was something of a disappointment.

It's remarkably down on psychiatry, and while I admit the field has its failings, I find the relentlessly negative portrayal a little one-sided and tiresome. But that's not what irritated me the most about this novel.

Most of the characters are faceless names, essentially interchangeable suits of clothing interacting with one another, but even that didn't irritate me much.

The most irritating thing about this novel is the narrator's voice. It's not consistent with the set-up of the novel. An example passage, written by George of Today from his memories as a child of eleven, summing up a person he's recently met:

"No, there was another type that gravitated to Preston. Unlike their sensualist brethren, these were professionals, often out-of-towners, who quietly fell in love with Stoneland County's creeks and mountains and honeysuckle---and out of love with their white-collar jobs. They moved through Preston society with a gentle, almost monastic air, like they'd found something so special they didn't want to move too fast, or speak too loud, for fear of breaking it. Kurt, I reckoned quickly, was one of these." (70)

So, George is supposed to be precocious. I get that. I'm the mother of a precocious just-turned-twelve myself, and they do say some remarkably insightful things. But precocious or not, an eleven-year-old is not going to make observations like these. This kind of remote, somewhat sarcastic generalization of a population is something an adult would do, not a precocious pre-teen. I could see a teen doing this sort of thing, accurate or not, showing off their worldliness, but at eleven, I'm not sure that kind of awareness has developed. Eleven is still so inward-focused.

And sure, one could argue that this was written by an adult as a memory of childhood (even though he says that he "reckoned quickly" that Kurt was a particular type, implying that he did this at age eleven), and he could have come to these conclusions over years of reflection, but on the very first page, the narrator tells us,

"In fact, I can honestly say I had no memory of the events I describe in these pages---meaning no conscious memory, no current memory. They are things I experienced in childhood, then tucked away in a file along with the soccer games, the Christmas presents, and the illicit midnight Nutter Butters."

This doesn't sound like the kind of memory one has turned over in one's brain over the decades. He's shut the door on these memories, and that implies that all of his reflections will be those of his eleven-year-old self. So either the author overstated the lack of memory at the beginning (a rather melodramatic move), or he wrote all of the "notebook" recollections from a perspective that doesn't fit the story.

Maybe one could argue that (view spoiler) And if it's all supposed to be notebooks, even setting aside my incredulity that he can remember all of that dialogue so clearly and that he would write in that much detail a part of his life that he's not even thought about in thirty years, I don't really see how the shift to present tense in the last part of the closing chapter makes sense. Did he go back and write that bit in present tense in the notebook? I just don't buy it.

And that's the biggest problem I have with this novel. Despite some pleasantly spooky scenes and an interesting theme, I just don't buy it. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 20, 2017 |
I liked this book quite a bit, it's a classic tale of good versus evil with a twist in that you're not really sure at the end if the character is insane or possessed by a demon; the reader is left to determine that for his or her self. I found this book to be intelligently written and well-plotted. When I finished the story I looked at the author's picture at the back of the book and thought to myself, hmmm could he be writing about his own experience? I would definitely recommend this book to others. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
I liked this book quite a bit, it's a classic tale of good versus evil with a twist in that you're not really sure at the end if the character is insane or possessed by a demon; the reader is left to determine that for his or her self. I found this book to be intelligently written and well-plotted. When I finished the story I looked at the author's picture at the back of the book and thought to myself, hmmm could he be writing about his own experience? I would definitely recommend this book to others. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
4.5 stars. I couldn't stop reading this! I was definitely spooked! ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
4.5 stars. I couldn't stop reading this! I was definitely spooked! ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Evans, JustinAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
All the conventions aspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good
- W.H. AUDEN
Dedication
for Maria and Nicholas
First words
It was a tidy brownstone on Ninth Street near my home, one that I had passed many times without noticing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
George Davies has a problem: he can't bring himself to hold his newborn son. Desperate to save his dwindling marriage and redeem himself as a father and husband, George visits a therapist and begins to delve into the childhood memories that may be the root of his issues. Ten-year-old George, in the wake of his father's harrowing and unexpected death, is experiencing ominous visions - some friendly, others outright terrifying. Unable to control those visions, George starts to display erratic behaviour and eventually becomes violent. When a mysterious murder is ultimately revealed, the stakes are suddenly much higher for him and his family. Are the visions just the product of a grief-stricken child's overactive imagination? Symptoms of mental illness? Or is ten-year-old George possessed by a darker, more malevolent force?

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307351289, Paperback)

A Washington Post Best Book of 2007

“Beautifully written and perfectly structured. . . . This novel is much more than The Omen for the latte generation, and Evans cleverly subverts expectations at every turn.” –Washington Post

In the smart and suspenseful A Good and Happy Child, a psychological thriller in the tradition of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History with shades of The Exorcist, a young man reexamines his childhood memories of strange visions and erratic behavior to answer disturbing questions that continue to haunt him and his new family.

“[A] satisfying, suspenseful first novel. . . . Young George’s intriguing story unbalances the reader right up to the book’s deliciously chilling end.”
—People

“A scary, grown-up ghost story that combines Southern gothic with more than a twist of The Exorcist. . . . Combine[s] mind-bending storytelling with excellent prose.”
—Portland Tribune

“Think Rosemary’s Baby—plus . . . told in the kind of prose that mesmerizes, sweeping the reader along so fast that there’s no time to ask questions.”
—Hartford Courant

“[A] dazzling debut . . . part psychological thriller, part horror story.”
—Chicago Tribune

“Relat[es] his otherworldly suspense story with the cool, calm eye of a skeptic.”
—Entertainment Weekly (A—)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

George Davies has a problem: he cant bring himself to hold his newborn son. Desperate to save his dwindling marriage and redeem himself as a father and husband, George visits a therapist and begins to delve into the childhood memories that may be the root of his issues.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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