The Young Accomplice
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A novel about architecture, ambition, crime and guilt. It takes place in the early 1950s, and is set mainly on the Surrey farm where Arthur and Florence Mayhood are attempting to set up both an architect’s practice and a self-sufficient commune. Their inspiration is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Wisconsin, but their community has only two members, brother and sister Joyce and Charlie Savigear, young offenders recently released. Through dramatic time jumps and a sure ear for dialogue, Wood builds up convincing levels of psychological depth in all the main characters. Arthur is saintly in his determination to see good in everyone, and to rise above a major disability. Florence is his loyal, pragmatic companion, prepared to act also as driver and mechanic. Charlie is determined to overcome all obstacles to make it as an architect, and such is his practicality and willingness to learn, that we suspect he will. His older sister Joyce, six foot tall and immensely strong, has however come to the commune with hidden motives. If you do nothing, you will be auto-enrolled in our premium digital monthly subscription plan and retain complete access for 65 € per month.
But, two years later, she is waiting on a railway station in the tranquil English countryside. It's the summer of 1952 and she and her younger brother Charlie have just been released from borstal. Another fresh start awaits - but can Joyce ever outrun the darkness of her past? While Joyce (the elder of the two) is rather sly and outspoken, Charlie is much quieter – a diligent young man who seems eager to learn. He responds well to the expectations set by the Mayhoods, contributing to the farm labour alongside his architectural training. In truth, there is something of the young Arthur in Charlie Savigear, a gentleness combined with curiosity and determination, qualities that Florence detects and hopes to nurture. This satisfyingly old fashioned- feeling novel from a youngish author strikingly conveys its 1950s rural setting, and has a grim pull of foreboding . . . Benjamin Wood's perspective-shifting novel weaves elements of
Wood is a seriously talented writer, able to enter the minds of his characters with eerie precision. The Young Accomplice is an involving tale of revenge and responsibility, which, while it devastates, also tells us that new lives can be built among the ashes FT You may also opt to downgrade to Standard Digital, a robust journalistic offering that fulfils many user’s needs. Compare Standard and Premium Digital here.
Wood’s unnerving fourth novel follows young siblings from borstal to living on a farm in 50s England. As a portrait of youthful mistakes and adult blindness, The Young Accomplice is both tender and cutting; it is often subtle and occasionally thrilling. Christopher Shrimpton, GuardianChris Power talks to Benjamin Wood about his novel The Young Accomplice. Set in 1952 the novel explores how Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist vision inspired a married couple to set up their own architectural office in rural Surrey, where they offer a creative education and opportunity to orphaned siblings fresh out of borstal.
Was this how it was going to be for ever?” wonders Joyce Savigear, facing another afternoon of drudgery at EH Lacey’s department store in postwar Maidstone, Kent. Joyce is 16 and at a crossroads. Before her is mysterious Mal Duggan, looking invitingly up from the driving seat of a Daimler; behind her are endless hours of folding womenswear and polishing counters. “How much worse off would she be if she went driving with a stranger for a while?”Indeed, Wright’s words provide the preface: “To see a failure changed to a success – there is what I call Education.” As a portrait of youthful mistakes and adult blindness, The Young Accomplice is both tender and cutting; it is often subtle and occasionally thrilling. If, at times, the mechanics of plot carry us away from the more grounded human emotions Wood has cultivated, it is no great matter. Some lessons are just worth hearing.