There is a human dilemma at the centre of Claire Adam’s first novel that will put sweat on your forehead... Golden Child soon reveals itself as high-end literature. It has elements of a thriller, but remains rooted in imaginative and moral territory, with the tragic arc of an Arthur Miller play... She writes with a dark, impacted intelligence. As soon as the book ends, you want to go back and pick out the lurking dangers and treacheries. This is a quiet explosion of a novel from a bright new voice in fiction.
Such quotidian concerns are swept aside, however, when the narrative returns to the question of Paul’s disappearance, and characters who have previously appeared briefly as feckless and irritating annoyances suddenly take a sinister turn. Having been lulled into a false sense of security in the early part of the book, some of the events in the final third are shocking to read. Meanwhile, the crux of the novel unfolds: family secrets begin to emerge and Clyde is forced to make the decision which no parent wants to make – to choose between his two sons
Intelligently and subtly written, Adams’s novel tackles themes which will have global appeal, breaking the hearts of parents the world over.
There is a hum of sadness reverberating through Claire Adam’s debut novel, set in a Trinidad far from the tourist’s gaze... Adam’s tale deals with dogged hope and bitter sacrifice; it is delivered in spare prose that suggests Clyde’s bone-deep weariness, with an acute, haunting understanding of how much pain can be inflicted by the people closest to you.
And yet, this simple tale bursts at the seams with life, as Adam’s dexterous prose blurs a fable of black and white into a riot of colour. Alongside passing references to the island’s endemic corruption (police officers trafficking turtle shells; Clyde’s rich relative Vishnu “sorting out” his having to pay taxes) are mesmerising descriptions, reminiscent of Arundhati Roy, of the lush, menacing, unavoidably metaphorical jungle, which threatens ecstasy, madness and run-ins with criminals. These set the scene, but it’s in the playful lists – of enormous meals, groceries, the contents of a rich relative’s house, things that need transporting – that we get the brightest, if most fleeting, glimpses of island life.
When I realised Adam’s novel was about a missing twin, I expected mistaken identities or impersonations: essentially gimmicks. What I got was an examination of parenthood. As I read Golden Child, an old expression flickered on the edge of my consciousness – rob Peter to pay Paul... Overall, this book manages to combine two things rarely bound together in the same spine: a sensitive depiction of family life and the page-flicking urgency of a thriller. And it will leave you wondering what you would have done in Clyde’s place.
This is a morally and emotionally complex novel, which nags and tugs at the conscience even as Adam’s depiction of a Trinidad that is rich, raw and remorseless absorbs, and the unfolding drama of Paul’s disappearance keeps the pages turning. While it is told mainly from the point of view of Clyde, both in the present as he grapples with his dilemma, and through flashbacks which take in the sweep of his marriage and the twins’ early lives, it is in the handful of chapters delivered from Paul’s perspective that it truly takes flight.