The Spider Truces
by Tom Connolly
Ellis OíRourke is a sensitive, likeable child with a pathological fear of spiders. The family; Ellis, his father, sister and great-aunt live in a crumbling and, unfortunately for Ellis, spider-filled house in rural Kent. But there is another, less corporeal inhabitant of the house: Ellisís dead mother Ė never talked about but always present. They are a close, gentle family but the spectre of a dead mother and wife always eclipses the familyís happiness because Denny, Ellisís dad, is unable to talk about her and 9-year-old Ellis doesnít remember her and doesnít have the words to ask - though he thinks about her a lot.
We follow Ellis through his teens into early adulthood leaving behind a succession of dead-end jobs, failed relationships, dabbles with drugs and booze, and foreign wanderings. But the constant in his life is his family: his affectionate but grief and guilt-filled dad, his loving and funny sister Chrissie and wise great-aunt Mafi somehow all pull together and eventually even the spiders are accepted.
This heartfelt, beautifully-constructed, coming-of-age story, set in the very particular landscapes of the Kentish Weald and Romney Marsh, is testimony to the authorís profound love of the area and he allows his wonderful protagonist, Ellis, to freely and effortlessly inhabit it.
You can read a Q & A with Tom Connolly at the end of the book that gives insight into the making of the story and to the psyche of a sensitive and honest author.
The Spider Truces has been shortlisted for the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Prize for Best Fiction Book.
Review by The Punters book group, Cambridge