When his beloved little brother is stolen away, five-year-old Tommy Farrier is left alone with his alcoholic mam, his violent step-dad and his guilt. Too young to understand what has really happened, Tommy is sure of only one thing. He is to blame.
Tommy tries to be good, to live-up to his brother’s increasingly hazy memory, but trapped in a world of shame and degradation he grows up with just two options; poverty or crime. And crime pays.
Or so he thinks.
A teenage drug-dealer for the vicious Burns gang, Tommy’s life is headed for disaster, until, in the place he least expects, Tommy sees a familiar face…
And then things get a whole lot worse.
This is a read not to be missed if you like a dark gritty read that delves into gangland crime, how someone gets sucked into that life, or because of upbringing, loss, drugs, alcohol. But this story is more than that it’s also a love story, can love conquer all, can you escape things in your past? Things you cannot change. I cried as I reached the end of this story because I’m sure somewhere this can happen through circumstances thrust on a young person trying to escape the trauma experienced at home. How do you escape a violent home? do you also become violent? or do you get drawn into dealing drugs in order to protect yourself and to make money,? but if you choose that life how do you escape it?
Tommy and Benji Farrier live with their mum in the North East of England, their lives are not what you would call happy. When the mother meets Daryl things get worse for the two boys, with both Daryl and the mother being alcoholics, add to that Daryl being abusive and a bully, life just keeps getting harder. Tommy is the eldest of the two boys, he tries to protect his young brother. But then a traumatic event leaves Tommy heartbroken, he blames himself. But this is just the start of his troubles.
It’s not long before Tommy enters the criminal world of drug dealing, it gives him a way out, it gives him money. He is not a ringleader, he just does as he is told. But each time it seems like something better is happening in his life, something else comes along bringing him down again. But Tommy is a fighter he battles on, never giving up. He is loyal to his friends which can sometimes lead to more trouble.
The whole story is told through first person narrative from Tommy‘s point of view. But how reliable is he? He is not always honest to himself let alone to the reader. But I feel for Tommy, you really want him to succeed in some way, to escape the underworld. He had met Annie when he was young, he had always had a thing for her but felt she had betrayed him at some stage. She is another victim that ends up with the wrong person with no idea how to escape. As the story progresses you wonder if the two will ever be able to be together. Will they have their happy ending? Or are they destined never to be together? Never to find happiness.
What does Tommy keep hidden in his basement that he wants no one to see? All the characters that are in the story are believable, relatable, some bad, some good, and some just caught in the in between, trapped, struggling to get out, because sometimes once you are in that kind of life it’s difficult to escape.
There are many things covered within the story, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, drug dealing, guilt, self-harm, PTSD, but it is far from being depressing, you become so focused on Tommy and his life choices and you root for him to escape and to find love.
Despite some of the subject matters this is a very well written book, it keeps the reader engaged from start to finish, not knowing what was going to happen to Tommy or some of the other characters next. If you like a gritty read then I would highly recommend this. With an ending that you don’t see coming. This is a good ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read. Definitely give it a go.
Thank you to Simon Van Der Velde for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.
Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.
INSPIRATION FOR THE STORY
Victims or perpetrators?
Working in the east end of Newcastle could be pretty dispiriting. Hard as we tried to make things better, there was always someone, plenty of someones, ready to tear it down. Drug and alcohol abuse was everywhere – as was anger and frustration, vented in seemingly pointless, and often vicious violence.
Put in a new central heating system, they’d rip it out to sell the copper pipe. Give them double-glazing, they’d put a brick through it. During the riots of 1999, local people set fire to their neighbours’ homes. In the end, it was hard to avoid feeling that these people deserved what they got.
There was a time, in living memory for some, when fully half the world’s shipping was built on the Tyne, and people would joke about the obvious foolishness of bringing coals to Newcastle. Not anymore.
These days, when a major employer closes down special teams are brought into the area to help with retraining and attract new employers. But in Thatcher’s Britain, when the unions, heavy industry and even the north itself was the enemy – closing down the mines and the decline of the shipyards was an end in itself. A victory. Something like the victory in Iraq, with no plan beyond winning the ‘war’.
The effect on these communities was devastating. Generations of skilled workers lost their jobs. More than that, they lost their identity and their union, and often their families. How could they teach their children the meaning of a hard day’s work for a fair day’s pay? – in this new world of every man for himself. And why would their children listen to these old mens’ stories? – when both father and children were signing on at the same dole office.
Abandoned and useless, these once proud men faded away. Worse still, their children grew up without hope or direction. The old order was gone, and there was nothing to replace it and nothing to do, except anaesthetize yourself from day to day, until the hopelessness got too much – and erupted into violence. Ambition meant getting a few quid together, enough to score a deal to get you through the emptiness, until next week’s giro. Dignity and community were replaced by crime and booze and drugs.
We’re on the third generation now. For them, the glory days are something the history teacher drones on about. It has nothing to do with their lives.
In a community with so little hope, overstretched social services and policing priorities elsewhere, it’s easy for the gangsters to take over – and anyway, no one likes a grass. Some, heroically, stay and fight for their community. But the truth is that most of the time, those who can, get out.
This is the world our hero, Tommy grows up in. So if The Silent Brother is dark in places, it’s because my aim is to tell it how it is. To highlight the link between victim and perpetrator, and show you that often, they are one and the same.
In writing this book, I asked myself – if I had grown up in this world, what, if I was brave enough, might I have done to survive?
The Silent Brother is my answer.