Review: The Clearing by Dan Newman
Published October 29th 2013 by Exhibit A
Review copy received from publisher
The Clearing has one of the best stories I’ve read this year. It’s a shame the execution of the book grated against my nerves.
When he was young, Nate lived on St. Lucia, a Caribbean island that looks like a paradise. Within the jungle there are secrets though, and Nate has been holding onto one for decades. The island doesn’t seem to welcome his return.
I was very enthusiastic when starting The Clearing. The story sounded like a mash-up of a thriller and Stephen King-esque characterisation and creepiness. There was plenty atmosphere and creepiness, and the characters are diverse and fun. The narrative constantly flashes between different times in Nate’s life, which might confuse some readers, but it really added to the feel of the story in my opinion. Nate is a bit mentally unstable, and although it took me some time to get used to it, it made him more interesting.
The Clearing has a mix of thriller and paranormal elements, mainly infusing island beliefs into the story. I loved what he was going for, but at one point about halfway the story went downhill for me. Readers are pretty clever. At least, I’d like to think I’m pretty clever. When a detail is described, I will remember that detail for at least a few pages, especially when reading a thriller. The Clearing, however, doesn’t seem to think the reader has this ability. We constantly get hit on the head with extremely unsubtle hints, hammering details that are VERY VERY IMPORTANT into it. It doesn’t help that Nate constantly has these revelations that go like this: “He clearly understood now that she would never heal from these wounds”. Don’t tell us she will never heal. Show it to us. We don’t need to be told these kind of simple truths, especially not over and over again.
It’s a shame really, because the meat of the story is amazing. I wish the execution was more subtle. The reader wants to feel good about himself for finding out the message of a book, he doesn’t want everything to be spelled out for him. I like to close my eyes and forget about the writing in The Clearing, and to just let the atmosphere and events of the book drift before my mind’s eye.
In 1971, four boys walked into a jungle. Only three came back alive. They blamed what happened on a mythical monster, but no-one believed them. Forty years later, the truth is finally coming out…Journalist, Nate Mason, is one of the survivors. Haunted by memories he doesn’t fully understand, he returns to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to unravel the tragic events of his childhood. Back then, as the son of a diplomat, Nate was part of an elite social circle. This included the island’s “royal family”, the De Villiers, who owned a decaying mansion deep in the jungle, staffed by the descendants of slaves. It was here, during a weekend of whispered childhood secrets and dares, that Nate’s innocence was torn apart. But Nate’s not the only one obsessed with the demons in his past. Within hours of arriving back on the island, he becomes convinced he’s being followed. But even though he soon realizes he’s risking his sanity as well as his life, he can’t stop himself from searching for the answers he came here to find. Can childhood nightmares haunt you for the rest of your life? How much do you need to believe in a monster for it to become real?
- Review: Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong (4/5 Stars)
- Review: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough (3.5/5 Stars)
- Review: Parasite by Mira Grant (4/5 Stars)
- Review: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (4.5/5 Stars)