All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Apology by Ross Watkins

on August 2, 2018

The Apology
Ross Watkins
University of Queensland Press
2018, 248p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Adrian Pomeroy teaches English at an all-boys school ‘full of bullshit artists in blazers’. When he finds himself at the centre of an allegation that might end his career, his life starts to unravel in spectacular fashion. With a police investigation underway, Adrian turns to his detective brother for help, but Noel is battling crippling demons of his own.

As the repercussions of this one accusation lead to the implosion of Adrian’s family, he can no longer ignore the secrets buried in his own past. The Apology is an explosive and shocking portrait of the lies we tell ourselves and each other in order to survive.

This book packs a punch.

Adrian is a high school English teacher somewhere in western Sydney at an all-boys school. For the most part, the students seem apathetic but every now and then you get one that you think you might be able to make a difference with. After almost a decade in the job, Adrian is called into the principal’s office and told that there’s an allegation against him. It’s the sort of allegation that ends careers, means jail time and destroys lives. He’s placed on leave effective immediately and then has to deal with a police investigation and the fallout with his wife and family.

The narrative is split between quite a few characters – Adrian, Adrian’s brother Noel, Noel’s wife Wendy, the person who makes the allegations, Adrian and Noel’s mother Glenda, one of Noel and Wendy’s children, and Adrian’s wife. Noel is a police officer and he and his family live in Perth but they travel to Sydney to be there during Adrian’s time of trouble, which brings an awful lot of unresolved issues and childhood incidents bubbling to the surface.

There’s so much this book is addressing – adolescence and the struggle of identity and sexuality, family relationships and dynamics, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, gender identity, it’s quite a list. But the way in which it is written makes each issue feel thoughtfully explored and even though this isn’t a long book, it doesn’t feel rushed or crammed full. Each of the characters are given ample time for the reader to gain insight into them, their thoughts and feelings, actions and their relationships to other characters. It’s messy and complicated at times, but what family isn’t?

The book seems deliberately ambiguous in the beginning as to whether or not Adrian might be guilty of what he’s accused of, like it’s encouraging the reader to make a snap decision based on what they know of Adrian so far (which actually isn’t much – and there are a couple of scenes that are enough to ask the question) but it is almost like it’s not about that. The allegations are simply a means to an end, a catalyst that brings Noel and his family back over the east coast and the issues between him and Adrian rising to the surface. I didn’t expect a lot of what unfolded over the course of the novel – there were definitely some surprise and it kept me guessing how things were going to pan out. Adrian has cause to feel very wronged by Noel from their childhood and it’s clear that there’s never been a discussion or conversation about what happened when they were both children.

I was in two minds about a lot of what happened in this book – and I liked that. It made me really think about a lot of things, such as the young teen that makes the accusation towards Adrian at the beginning of the book. It’s easy to go one way in your thoughts but then there’s more of a background and I think that there was a real struggle going on in that boy’s mind and the lines just got very blurred. It was almost like a cry for attention, to be noticed in some ways – that’s not okay and it’s not the right way to go about it and strict boundaries have to be in place for many reasons. But I still couldn’t help feeling for him and the mess of negotiating high school in that situation. I’m reluctant to say too much because it’d be really easy to spoil things about this book!

Forgiveness is a funny thing – sometimes you give it without even thinking about it. And other times it can be the hardest thing in the world to truly forgive someone for something that they’ve done. This book poses the question that how much is too much to forgive and I feel that there were truly some forgiving people in this story. It’s interesting that the person who often struggled in this story, was the one seeking or needing the forgiveness, not necessarily the person who had been wronged. Or maybe their struggle was just less obvious, something that they’d learned to deal with in a more effective way. Guilt can be a very powerful thing as well. The longer things are left, the more invasive they can become.

This book builds slowly but expertly, ramping up the tension with each new chapter and each new reveal and development. It’s a total page turner – there were so many things I wanted to know, so many things I wanted to see resolved. And like I mentioned, it went places I really didn’t expect. The ending isn’t perfect, but it’s an ending that the story seems to warrant. Not everyone is destined to come out unscathed.

I really enjoyed this and I’ll definitely be looking out for Ross Watkins’ next book.


Book #127 of 2018


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