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by Robert Goddard
Bantam, May 2008
528 pages
ISBN: 0385341172

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Robert Goddard's first novel, PAST CARING, made an impression when it came out almost twenty years ago, receiving great praise from critics and a Booker Award nomination for Best First Novel. Now with the book's latest printing, nothing has changed. It is still a great book and new readers, always hoping for a good mystery, will be pleased to discover it.

The novel is told through two first-person narratives, something that always raises questions. One does not know which direction the story is going to go to so all you can do is go with the flow and make a decision whether to trust the narrator's interpretation or not. The first speaker is Martin Radford, an unemployed teacher and historian, who does not know what he wants to do with his life.

He is given the opportunity of lifetime when he is asked to come to the island of Madeira, off the Portuguese coast, to listen to a proposal by a man named Leo Sellitt. He has bought an estate that used to belong to Edwin Stafford, appointed Home Secretary in 1908, who disappeared from politics under mysterious circumstances. Stafford left a journal behind that might shed light on his life.

Sellitt wants to hire Radford in order to find out the truth and Radford, having nothing to lose, accepts. Radford reads the story of Stafford, the second first-person narrator, in order to come to an understanding as to what really happened to a once promising politician.

Most of the first half of the book is spent on Stafford's story and it is engrossing. It is a story of love and shattered dreams. As a young politician, Stafford wanted to put his mark on the world and make a difference. It only takes one day for his life to be forever destroyed, leading to a series of repercussions that affects Radford in ways he could never imagine. However, nothing is quite as it seems and there are people who, even decades later, want to prevent the truth from ever coming out. It is at this point that one's patient reading pays off. It is a long book and not to be rushed and so good that every detail is important. PAST CARING is worth all the careful attention a reader can pay it. Goddard has his masterpiece here.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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