The Silent Brother by Simon Van der Velde #LiteraryFiction @SimonVdVWriter #TuesdayBookBlog

41InJmgsxALAuthor: Simon Van der Velde

Published: June 2022 by Northodox Press

Category: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Urban, Gangland Crime


The Past Never Dies

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.

Compelling and emotive, The Silent Brother is a gritty, dark, tense and raw look at life in Newcastle during an extremely troubled time for the city. Industry had lost its hold and business after business disappeared, leaving men and women jobless and without hope for the future.

The younger generation had nothing to aim for except a life of crime and there are always those waiting in the wings to take advantage, with promises of large amounts of money to be made…a draw for the gullible as well as those destined for a life of crime. Once part of that life it’s hard to break free.

Tommy and Benjy Farrier lived with their mother, a woman on the slippery slope to alcoholism. Things went from bad to worse when the latest of her men, the mean spirited and abusive Daryl Boyle, came onto the scene, and before too long Tommy’s life begins the gradual downward spiral. He’s unable to rely on his mother, the only bright spot in his life is a skinny young girl called Annie who loved Cadbury’s Caramel.

The van stops and we’re there, where The Social won’t find us, and I’m Tommy Boyle, age five-and-a- half, and I don’t have a brother and I never did. And Daryl’s got a piece of paper to prove it.

But Daryl doesn’t know everything, and later, when it’s dark and he says he’s going to “check this shithole out,” Mam carries me up to my new room. She lays me down on the mattress and asks if I’m ok. I shake my head. I don’t want to talk to her.

The story is told exclusively and very realistically from Tommy’s point of view. He’s an unreliable narrator, not always entirely truthful with himself or anyone else, due in a large part to a traumatic event in his childhood which caused him enormous feelings of guilt and to brand himself a coward. Of course he wasn’t a coward, he was only a child, but it takes a long time for Tommy to accept that what happened wasn’t his fault.

The Silent Brother is hard hitting and emotional with believable scenarios. It’s not hard to imagine why Tommy is drawn into a life of crime given the lack of choices and the spectre of poverty, but despite the lack of nurturing, many setbacks, bad decisions, fear and violence, he doesn’t give up. So, in spite of the fine line he treads between offender and injured party, both of which are applicable, you can’t help but hope Tommy eventually treads the right path. A powerful and impressive read.

I chose to read and review The Silent Brother based on a digital copy kindly supplied by the author.


Simon VdVSimon 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.

Author links ~ Website | Twitter | Facebook 


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