My school has a staff and student book club. Up until now I've got away with not reading anything; they've all been books I've already read. However, I decided I would actually, you know, read a book for a book club.
The book I ended up reading was I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill. It features a young sociopath, a well-meaning dad, a feckless and foolish mother and a boy called Charles Kingshaw who has to negotiate all this. For the most part, nothing much really happens. There are a few childhood scraps, Kingshaw gets attacked by a crow, Kingshaw attempts to run away, there is an accident at a castle. But that's probably the beauty of it. It's a simple plot that is woven in beautiful description and insightful narratives from the characters' minds. The settings are so crafted with detail and precision; the characters are developed and nuanced.
Furthermore, the simplicity of the storyline allows the ideas of the claustrophobic house, the fight for power between the boys, loss and injustice to explored in depth. It meant that readers are able to sense the struggles and the pain that Kingshaw feels and they understand it fully. As a result, I found it impossible not to be drawn and relate to this world of an eleven-year-old boy. I was surprised at how emotionally involved I got when reading it.
It is the first time that I truly resented a character. It wasn't the sociopathic and chilling Hooper that I hated, but Kingshaw's mother. Everything she did was to the detriment of her child. I found myself getting so frustrated with her, just as Kingshaw did. I'm the King of the Castle ends rather tragically, and I was glad for it. There was a sense of relief, but I also felt Helena Kingshaw deserved it. That stupid woman deserved every grief thrown upon her. I can't remember when a book brought out such a nasty side of me.
So, perhaps it's not a sweeping tale on a grand scale or a biting social commentary, but it was a pretty good read.