3 out of 4 stars
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Consequences by Sam Boyd is a short novel following Jack Turner, the son of village shopkeepers, as he makes his way into English high society. Through his education in a well-regarded school and his friendship with high-born Rupert Winstanley, Jack mixes with the upper classes, becoming a successful lawyer and a lord near the end of the story. The plot traverses a range of events, from Jack's school days and first love, to the beginnings of his career and the eventual souring of the close friendship between himself and Rupert. Consequences comes to a swift and dramatic conclusion in which the meaning of the title becomes apparent, leaving a rather regretful and dismayed Jack. The only thing he has left to hold on to is the maxim instilled in him by his typically English mother - "to keep a stiff upper lip".
The narrative begins with Jack staring into the fire while holding a whiskey, and looking back over his life to date. This retrospective beginning works well, and the story comes full circle after all of the events have been communicated. I thought that the English setting was adroitly created; it felt very true to life. Although I was not sure exactly when the novel was set (I couldn't see any clues in the book), I would guess the late 1990s. The portrayal of a large public school was expertly achieved, as was that of upper class pursuits such as attending horse races and lavish dinners in country houses.
The writing style of Consequences was a slight disappointment to me. While the plot was full of interesting incident, the rather flat narration undercut this at points. This could be personal preference, however: I tend to prefer a more ornate technique, whereas Boyd writes in a straightforward, factual manner. This style actually fits the content in a way, as it matches the character of narrator Jack, a dispassionate phlegmatic Englishman. There were also quite a few instances of cliche, but overall the writing was pleasant and easy to read.
I found the character of Jack sympathetic in his efforts to better himself and to act honourably in all circumstances. He is contrasted with his best friend, Rupert, who fits the type of the carefree playboy. Rupert's actions are the ones that have the biggest - and ultimately the most shocking - impact on all of the characters. I also found Anne, who was a love interest for both men, to be a convincingly depicted protagonist. As for editing, I noticed about ten minor mistakes, mostly misplaced commas and apostrophes. None of these interfered with the flow of the narrative.
I would recommend Consequences for its plot, which was the main draw. Even though much of it wasn't spectacularly action-packed, I found Jack's narration to be engaging and effortless to read. The final section was quite unexpected. Readers who enjoy fiction set in England would like this book, as the milieu is accurately captured. Those looking for a relatively quick and simple read would also appreciate Boyd's novel. There is a second Jack Turner novel for those who enjoy this one. Boyd is a good author with a firm grasp of character and incident, and the book's simplicity is often a merit. I enjoyed Consequences, but it was a limited enjoyment due to the understated style, and for that reason I give it 3 out of 4 stars.
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