In this section:
Financial Times Books of the Year
Shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award
Shortlisted for the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award
Shortlisted for the Brit Writers Published Writer of the Year Award 2011
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2011
Ellis is obsessed by the spiders that inhabit the crumbling house where he lives with his dad, his older sister and Great-aunt Mafi – and also by a need to find out more about his mother, whose death overshadows the family’s otherwise happy existence. He is a sensitive soul; awkward and out of place most of the time but funny, too, and with an embarrassing habit of speaking his thoughts aloud, whatever the company.
From early attempts at relationships, to unskilled jobs, flatshares and drug-addled nights on the beach, Ellis muddles his way towards adulthood. What endures is the strength of his bond with his dad, Denny, and his affectionate relationship with his intrepid sister, who turns up whenever he needs her – a new boyfriend in tow every time. The family banter is Ellis’s lifeline and a counterpoint to the constant heartache of his desire to know something – anything – about his mother. Meanwhile Denny, an ex-Merchant Navy man, bottles up his grief at the loss of his wife, refusing to talk about her.
Against the vividly described background of 1980s rural Kent, this moving portrait of a father-son relationship shifts effortlessly between evoking the terrors and joys of adolescence and the complicated pleasure and pain of being an adult.
When you try to protect someone from grief, do you prevent them from feeling anything at all? Beautiful debut about a son trying to break free from his father.
A remote corner of Kent is the background to Connolly's magical coming-of-age novel. Growing up, Ellis prefers to spend time on the local farm; later he will develop a talent for photography, but relationships remain a mystery to him in this fierce, humane and hazily poetic work.
There were passages in this novel which made me laugh out loud and others which were extremely moving... I silently gave three cheers for Ellis when I reached the end of this book. This is a poetic, moving and evocative read.
A warm coming-of-age story that tackles family relationships, secrets, belonging and self-acceptance. Ellis’s journey as he blunders through adolescence, breaks free from the shackles of childhood and finally confronts his phobia, is moving and beautiful, as are the rural and coastal settings Connolly describes so vividly.
In 1980s Kent, quirky youth Ellis is obsessed by the spiders in his country home and by the need to know more about his mother's death. Filmmaker Connolly's touching novel follows Ellis as he muddles toward adulthood and understanding.
This heartfelt, beautifully-constructed, coming-of-age story, set in the very particular landscapes of the Kentish Weald and Romney Marsh, is testimony to the author’s profound love of the area and he allows his wonderful protagonist, Ellis, to freely and effortlessly inhabit it.
It’s a beautiful book about whether or not you can protect someone from the bad things in life – and lays bare the fact that, in the end, in doing so you are preventing them from living life itself. This isn’t a novel that spans hundreds of years or different places. It’s a very close-to-home novel that’s poignantly written.
The Spider Truces is one of those wonderful novels that captures within its pages something of the essence of life as lived. Connolly follows Ellis through his teens and beyond, with a keen eye for the rhythms of family life and growing up. His characterisation is superb. An interview with the author at the back of the book reveals that he is working on two more novels; I very much look forward to reading them.
For a first novel there is much to delight. The lyricism and humour, as well as interesting quirks of character and event, draw you in... I could recommend the book purely for the final third, which is moving and beautifully written. Connolly has proved his prose can be exquisite and his imagination original. I will be looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
Tom Connolly’s debut novel has lots in common with Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie – similar rural English setting, with all the yearnings and awkwardness of turning from child to man. We follow Ellis on a classic journey through the 1970s and 1980s, laughing at his Adrian Mole-esque misunderstandings and hopelessness with the opposite sex. A lyrical, stylish and heart-warming piece of work. Read full review
This engaging coming-of-age novel highlights how death, grief and secrets can tear a father and son apart, and how a finely spun thread of love, mutual understanding and acceptance can bring them together again.