... exquisite ... Livesey’s writing is quiet, observant and beautifully efficient—there’s not an extra word or scene in the entire book—and yet simultaneously so cinematic, you can hear the orchestral soundtrack as you tear through the pages ... The story is told through alternating perspectives of the three siblings, each of whom we come to love and root for.
Refreshingly, it’s a coming-of-age fable, far more concerned with probing how the shocking discovery alters the three young witnesses, and is all the richer for it ... the latest novel from Margot Livesey, a prolific writer with a keen eye for the interiority of her characters, a skill that enriches her novels with a rare intimacy and immediacy. In lesser hands, this volume would devolve into another tired tale of adolescence featuring your typical lovelorn teens figuring out who they want to become when they grow up. These tropes make an appearance, but Livesey deftly tweaks them to reflect how a shared traumatic experience ripples into the lives of the three protagonists — each a distinct and beautifully rendered character ... This tragicomic misunderstanding is the means that Livesey uses, brilliantly, to turn the narrative from a crime saga into a perceptive examination of family life ... By focusing on the hidden lives of her characters as they grapple with these secrets, Livesey tenderly evokes childhood’s end and the realization that growing up will overwhelm you with more questions than answers ... Some readers may, like Matthew, be unsatisfied with how Livesey chooses an unconventional, anticlimactic reveal of who attacked Karel in the field ... unconventional and captivating.
... luminous ... Livesey’s language is crystalline-clear and immersive, replete with vibrant imagery and echoes that play particularly effectively in her portrayal of Duncan, whose vivid imagination stymies him during class ... Ultimately what keeps Livesey’s novel aloft is that it is full of kindnesses ... Like so many other moments in this novel, that description nails the moment, the character, and the elemental aspect of the book in one fell, satisfactory swoop.
... a stunning novel of tenderness, interconnectedness, cause and effect ... a coming-of-age story, a mystery, a sharp-eyed examination of individual lives and relationships. Despite the violent crime related to its title and the insecurities that arise for various characters along the way, this brilliant novel offers a sense of beauty and safety in its quiet ruminations.
A swift-moving mystery that expands into subtler sorts of narratives ... Its primary players are a busy family of five, their secrets generating a natural volatility, but the drama zips among them like a game of Quidditch ... The narrative risks more than one startling coincidence, and though Livesey makes these convincing, they underscore the uniqueness of these hothouse flowers ... The novel could be accused of dwelling in Pleasantville, with so many kind gestures and million- dollar smiles. Under these cute thatched roofs, however, there huddle abused and unwanted children. More than that, Livesey grasps how each novel must find its own register.
... compelling in its simplicity and complexity. Each page is rich with understanding of how lives fit together and fall apart. Margot Livesey never pounds the reader with the same, obvious information or a wise authorly voice ... The author’s awareness of how children learn and apply what they know and understand to the world around them is beautifully done ... I appreciated the sense of closure. As truthful as the rest of the novel, Livesey’s concluding paragraph returns to the entire Lang family and the traumatic event. They have managed, and they chip away at the unfathomable.
... the events of this novel are as far from the familiar Cotswolds cozy mystery cliché as it is possible to get, with readers coming out all the better for it on the other end. Here, everything and everyone feels real. Maybe because those most sensational details of incidents that would normally be the raison d’etre of a book like this one, with a crime at its center, receive the very welcome nuanced treatment from author Livesey, whose novels have, for a couple of decades now, been successful at making the rich subtext of feeling, memory, and difficult life decisions mulled over, the main event of her stories ... All this reality does not take away from the page-turning suspense. It is just a different kind of suspense. One that feels personal, lived, recognized, and cared about. In the background, there are still the Cotswolds, every bit as evocative, and making each gripping event even more unsettling by contrast[.]
... a quiet, beautifully rendered mystery peopled with kind, decent characters who are sincerely doing their best for those around them. The warmth it offers is reinforced by its pastoral English sensibilities — shown here as continuing in the modern day — which immediately make Americans nostalgic ... I was thoroughly captivated, and the story pulled me in and drew me effortlessly along, starting from the very beginning ... With economy built of intriguing details, Livesey uses chapter one to set up the action, introduce many of the characters, and give us a solid sense of who these three closely knit siblings are ... Friends who are adopted have heightened my sensitivity to the use of adoption as a plot device or character definition, since it is so often gratuitous. Here, though, I feel that Livesey does right by her characters ... There are a few jarring spots of tone-deafness here, none more so than a passing observation of a character’s suicide, along with the assessment that the character was 'no longer afraid.' The reductionism of those few sentences is breathtaking in an otherwise sensitive story ... Certainly, some readers will find their patience tried by a novel in which virtually all the characters are open-hearted and generous, even as they keep secrets and do some perilously hurtful things ... I realize that the daily pummeling of events over the last eight months softened me up for a book like this, which invites the reader in and envelops her in a warm glow. Thanks, Margot Livesey. It was just what I needed.
Every character rings true; every observation and reaction feels real. Braiding three separate views of the same incident, Livesey weaves a masterful tapestry of emotion and action focused on the indelible impact of random events.
... an empathic exploration of family, connection and creativity ... It’s not the solving of the crime that moves the plot along—the discovery of Karel’s attacker is anticlimactic at best—but rather the quiet way Livesey explores the enduring and, in this case, elastic bonds of family love, even in the most stressful situations. Filled with detailed observation and a precisely delineated plot, The Boy in the Field will please readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories written with psychological precision and empathy.
There are perhaps a few too many coincidences in an attempt to tie up loose ends, but Livesey does well by her teenage protagonists while offering a vivid portrait of life among intellectuals in an Oxford-vicinity village.
Family bonds are fraught, fragile, yet ultimately enduring in Livesey’s nuanced account of the siblings’ separate but conjoined odysseys, counterpointed by piercing glimpses of Karel, who confesses to Duncan that sometimes he wishes they hadn’t rescued him. The reasons for his wish are among the many motives that simmer beneath the text without rising to the surface; Livesey demonstrates the same respect for the mysteries of the human heart that enriched such previous novels ... Quietly yet powerfully affecting.
... a distinctive blend of literary fiction and psychological thriller ... Precise prose, cool observation, and tight pacing will keep readers turning the pages. This is a memorable twist on the coming-of-age tale.