'In the depths of a sweltering summer, teacher Samuel Szajkowski walks into his school assembly and opens fire. He kills three pupils and a colleague before turning the gun on himself.'
This much I knew as I turned the first page of Rupture and I was expecting the usual sort of things, troubled lives caught up in sad massacre, perpetrator to be reviled and of course ringing around my head We Need to Talk About Kevin, (surely now the definitive modern-day 'shooting massacre' novel) and all the feelings that book aroused as it covered the taboo subject of a mother not loving her child.
Policewoman Lucia May is assigned to the case and proceeds to question witnesses and here comes the very clever narrative device; much of the story progressed by those anonymous witness statements which only reveal one side of the interview. Lucia's questions have to be guessed at from the answers that are given, as does the identity of each witness.
Sometimes it's clear who is speaking sometimes less so but Simon Lelic has hit on a really innovative approach.
It's such an astute way of developing characters and personalities too, each unwittingly revealing so much about themselves and others, their fears and prejudices, speculating on what they think happened, slotting in their bit of the jigsaw, not unlike building a sort of three dimensional identikit picture of a personality. Each person and their circumstances settled clearly into my mind as I read and to Simon Lelic's credit, here I am, a few moments on from the start of this post and already the entire book has flooded back into my mind.
Some memorable characters too, why is the PE teacher always flash and Mr Very Confident?
Sorry, if you are a PE Teacher, I'm sure you're the exception, but Simon Lelic has nailed all this really astutely.
Less apparent from my schooldays it has to be said, Miss Dormer and her knee-length pleated games' skirt and aertex blouse plus veins and bunions etc, ...heck I hope she's not reading this, I already have the Latin teacher following here:-) But how well I remember our own trips to parents' evenings, and why do they have to appear in shorts all the time, at 8pm on a bitterly cold February night?
I really was hoping whatisname would trip over his trainers and fall flat on his face in a muddy puddle.
Samuel Szajkowski meanwhile remains a tantalisingly remote character and I spent much time picking up the 'why' clues about him.
Wondering quite what the taboo subject might be for Simon Lelic, I think I found it in the way that my sympathies were distributed and where eventually that sense of empathy finally rested, and I don't want to give that away because I think it might be slightly different for everyone. That manipulation of reader emotions and attitudes felt like an integral part of the reading experience for me.
Rupture is a book which embraces all those themes of bullying, harassment and corruption and how many ways there are to respond to them, alongside issues of violence and it is not only to be found in the school, victims abound in the police force too.
To my chagrin I can't now remember whether the time setting for the book is made clear or not really alluded to, because I'd like to believe that in a twenty-first century setting we might have seen the Chief Constable out on his ear for failing to halt the progress of such blatant and disgraceful sexual harassment in his Force. But having followed around the edges of the slightly different case in the news here last week, well who knew.
And this is fiction after all, but good fiction....I really enjoyed this, if I'm allowed to enjoy a book where bad things happen to ordinary people.
Does this bode well for Truman Capote?