“Promise that you’ll listen to everything I say with an open mind. All I ask for is an open mind. Promise me you’ll do that, that’s why I’ve come to you. Promise me!” – from The Farm, page 19 –
Daniel is struggling with his own inner demons when he gets a phone call from his father in Sweden. Apparently his mother is not well – specifically, she has been imagining things and has sunk into a paranoid fantasy world. But before Daniel can fully comprehend his father’s words, he gets another phone call – this time from his mother who insists that everything he has just learned is a lie. Who should he believe? Is his mother’s convoluted story of conspiracy the truth? Or is it just the jumbled rambling of an insane woman?
The Farm is Tom Rob Smith’s newest novel set alternately in Sweden and London. The first 2/3rds of the book set up Daniel’s mother’s story of murder and conspiracy in the countryside of Sweden. Much of the narrative is in the voice of Daniel’s mother as she unpacks a satchel of evidence and outlines the events that have unfolded in her life over a period of several months. The last 1/3rd of the book is about Daniel’s quest to uncover the truth and is written in Daniel’s point of view.
Daniel also has secrets – namely that he is a “closeted” gay man. This theme is superficially explored in the novel, and I found it a bit detracting from the real story of what actually happened on a farm in Sweden. This fact about Daniel is supposed to give us insight into his character, but it is really the only thing about him that gives the character any depth.
There is a little twist at the end which explains everything, but I actually saw this one coming and its impact for me was blunted.
I found myself wanting to get to the “truth” but felt oddly unsatisfied once that truth is revealed. In crafting a plot driven story at the expense of real character development, I believe Smith has created a novel that packs little emotional punch.
Overall, I was disappointed in this novel, even though I was excited to read it. Some reviewers have suggested first time readers of Smith’s should begin with his Child 44 trilogy which received rave reviews and won Smith several literary awards. I have Child 44 in my stacks, and my disappointment with The Farm has not curbed my desire to eventually read Smith’s trilogy.