Book Review: The Chalk Man
‘What shapes us is not always our achievements but our omissions. Not lies; simply the truths we don’t tell.’
The Chalk Man
Ed is a man in his forties, living in the house he inherited from his parents, in the same town where he grew up. A town where when he was twelve, everything started to unravel, and when the chalk men appeared for the first time.
Told with dual timelines from that summer and the now, Ed begins to unpack what happened that summer, starting with a visit to the fair goes horribly wrong. A new teacher moves to town with skin as white as chalk. It is a summer that Ed and his friends develop the chalk men code which then starts appearing on its own, leading to the discovery of a body in the woods that will haunt the friends for years to come.
I loved how the group dynamics and the friendship was written, with Ed being at the age when he is still a child but wants to desperately be considered a grown up. An age where he is noticing girls, an age that bullies begin to prey upon insecurities and an age where you just still might miss vital clues on what is going on with the adults and friends around you.
The Ed of the present is not that impressive on paper. He is living in the same town, has the same group of friends he had as a child. He is not in a relationship and is currently living with a housemate to help him pay the bills. He drinks quite heavily and is plagued with guilt about what happened that summer and the events that came after.
Ed is presented as an unreliable narrator and as you get to know him and his group of friends, albeit, from his perspective, you start to empathise for him. His mother had a tough job working as a doctor at an abortion clinic with angry protesters threatening her life, his father had early onset Alzheimers which Ed is terrified of also having, and his friends have also had hard lives. Ed also says and does things that you might consider as a bit odd and throws off your balance as a reader, so you start to doubt your feelings and whether you can trust him.
I loved the atmosphere, the nostalgic childhood feelings and the building of all the interwoven threads of the story and how it all comes together at the end. It is well done but I felt like it did happen a tiny bit too fast, compared to the pacing of the rest of the book. What I also really thought was clever was the addition of the teacher, who was literally the ‘Chalk Man’ and how that added a dual meaning to the title.
What pulled it all together for me and made it a 5-star read was the ending. It was this extra added bit that put me on edge and made me feel creeped out and very uneasy just when you think everything has been settled and sorted out.
The Chalk Man was a mystery/thriller which I don’t read a lot of. I am glad that my work colleague recommended it to me as I may not have picked it up otherwise. I was intrigued the chalk men figures, loved the friendship group dynamic that the author captured so well and loved how the book linked some threads together in both predictable and unpredictable ways. I mean, that bit right at the end, that just chilled me to the bone.
2018 Reading Challenges:
Have you read The Chalk Man? Do you recommend any other interesting mystery/thrillers that have a different concept? I would love to know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.