It wasn’t just the arresting cover image that drew me towards reviewing this book (although the bloody butterfly on the Alma books addition is certainly quite striking). It was more the promise of a psychological drama centring around something as innocuous as an insect farm which really intrigued me.
The focus of the story is on two brothers who are each consumed by an obsession. Jonathan is head over heels in love with his girlfriend Harriet, and he fights on a daily basis to control the jealously he feels when her beauty and talents are admired by more than just him. His older brother Roger’s obsession is the infect farm he has built from scratch in their parents shed which houses millions of tiny insects.
Following the sudden and mysterious death of their parents, Jonathan’s life is altered forever when he is forced to return from university (away from his beloved Harriet) to take on the full time care of Roger, who lives in his own little world.
If that wasn’t earth-shattering enough, another violent death affects them and turns Jonathan’s regular routine upside down as he tries to save face with police and his acquaintances, all the while Roger seems oblivious to anything but his insect farm.
A tense psychological drama was promised in the press release and it seriously surpassed all my expectations in its delivery. Jonathan and Roger were so well depicted and their relationship is a touching and multifaceted one that fuels the emotive side of the story.
To me, they almost stopped being characters and became real people, with a genuine Jonathan accounting events from his (and Roger’s) lives. Being told from Jonathan’s perspective you really become absorbed in his feelings; the worry, the doubt, the desperation; which adds to the story even more.
With Roger’s character, the book touches on the issue of mental health. However I thought that rather than having a set message played out using the theme of mental health, the subject is more explored through Roger’s character, his interaction with the world around him and his relationship with his brother throughout the events that occur; all of which were tactfully and artfully portrayed in the prose.
The more disturbing trials in the book are all cleverly plotted to the add tension, uncertainty and suspense that really made this book unputdownable. The Insect Farm is a brilliantly devised novel fraught with drama and originality that will captivate any reader willing to give this book a chance.