4 out of 4 stars
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The title of Stephen Baddeley's astonishing novel, A Witness To A Life: A Tale of Love and Hate, of Art Fraud, Treachery and Retribution Deferred, perfectly encompasses what this story entails.
Tarquin Thomas Laroche-Lodge (Tom) was born into a wealthy family from England. Just like his father, Tom lived an unhappy life in many ways. What exactly does a child growing up in a wealthy home have to complain about? Could it have been the blatant hatred his father and elder brother had for him and how they constantly bullied him? Could it have been his lack of friends or suffering self-esteem due to his deformity and speech issues? It could have been any of these, but his mother was a ray of sunshine in his life. Unfortunately, tragedy struck, and he was left all alone in the world. Inheriting his family's fortune and wanting to become his own man came with very powerful enemies. On the other hand, he met and fell in love with Annie, who reminded him of his mother in many ways. Could this be exactly what he needs to start over on the road towards recovery from all he suffered?
Tom's journey is certainly full of twists and turns. From the beginning of the story, we are told that Annie betrays him eventually and destroys him. I felt like this would make the book less suspenseful initially, but I was very wrong. The story still retains its suspense while we find out the whys and hows of the said betrayal, and we get to understand both central characters' views since the story is told in the first-person perspective that switches between them. So, it may be difficult for readers to choose sides after reading, which I think is a positive.
Tom takes center stage, as he is firmly in control of the narration for most of the book. I completely enjoyed seeing the level of depth in his character and watching him grow through his rough experiences. Through his eyes, we slowly learn how cruel the world can be, but he is smart and adapts quickly (attributes his father wanted for his older brother). He developed a deep hatred for his father, which influenced him positively and negatively. Annie was also a lovable character; she was adventurous and straightforward. She also really helped Tom become the best version of himself. However, her past experiences had made her detest falling in love again. Therefore, this created an intriguing romance story between both characters that had different mindsets.
Tom and Annie did share a few fascinating interests as well, including their love for art and music, which the author explores extensively, as we encounter art pieces from artists like Edvard Munch. Furthermore, the book is professionally edited. I found about seven errors, but they did not affect my reading too much.
I cannot think of much to dislike about the book, except for Tom's frequent rambling that happened more times than I would have liked. I found him funny at times, however. I rate this novel 4 out of 4. The execution of the main characters that drove the story and the numerous twists that were well incorporated into the story convinced me that the book deserved the maximum rating. Readers who enjoy historical fiction novels will love this book. The profanity and sexual content included mean that A Witness To A Life is only suitable for a mature audience.
A Witness To A Life.
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