Once again, I find myself frowning and close to tears as I finally turn over the 307th page of this novel.
A rather strange story, I would muse, or, I daresay, strange stories. Criss-crossing between past and present, interweaving the terrors of death and the trauma of the ones still living, spiraling around family conflicts and fraying, breaking relationships.
This simple opening phrase is also the closing one,
“And there they were again.”
Kit, Jamie and Emma. Three siblings reduced to two, and finally one. A family of five reduced to three, minus the brother who died, and the one who left home on the day of the funeral and never came back.
Kit, who took his own life.
Jamie, who was there to witness it. Who is hiding, sheltering himself from the truth.
Rose and Joe, wondering about their son. Wondering about themselves.
Emma, caught in the middle of a silent storm, trying to work out how nothing really does work out for her.
The center of the story consists of letters written from Jamie to his raging father, who never replies. He might as well be writing to himself.
“Perhaps it was stupid, but I thought that if enough time went by you might begin to understand…but you haven’t forgiven me…”
Readers get a clear insight of what goes through Jamie’s mind every day, the haunting, guilty (is it really guilt?) knowledge he watched his brother die, he let his brother die. The regret of not “doing something earlier”. The anger and sadness stirred up, with the reminder that his parents blame him in the back of his mind. The terror that he’s most likely falling apart the same way his brother did.
Emma has more childish worries, about God forsaking her (why does He allow her to be bullied?). She also wonders about her brothers and the constant tension in her home; why don’t the pieces of her puzzle fit?
The View on the Way Down is a moving portrayal of love and pain, to quote Sally Brampton. It is a typically smart novel the provokes minds and emotions, with a mystery buried not so deep. Harshly, tragically realistic, like a slap to your face, this story will open your eyes, and yes, unfortunately, leave you heart-broken.
“You’re having a bad few days,” I said. “That’s all. It’s part of the recovery.”
“No. I’m not on the way up, Jamie. I’m on the way down. I can feel myself slipping.”
Spring was on its way – there was warmth in the air again and the sky was restored to a bright blue after the washed-out winer grey. Very quietly, Kit said, “You should see the view on the way down, though. It’s beautiful.”