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- Publisher: Windmill Books
- Format: Paperback | 288 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 20mm | 200g
- Publication date: 25 July 2011
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 009953763X
- ISBN 13: 9780099537632
- Sales rank: 503,884
Zoe Nielsen was just like any other ten-year-old walking to school, not knowing that a chance encounter with Thurman Hayes would lead to her abduction and imprisonment in a converted nuclear bunker, 4,000 miles away, beneath a remote ranch house in Arizona. Enslaved in her underground tomb, deprived of food and light and water, the girl Zoe once was steadily begins to disappear...But over time Thurman grows tired of the rapidly maturing Zoe, and when he decides it is time to get rid of her, Zoe must finally make her bid for freedom. Forgetting Zoe is a moving, epic tale of courage, survival, horror and loss, that explores how a bond of affection and intimacy can develop between captive and captor.
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Ray Robinson was born in North Yorkshire in 1971. After training as a graphic designer he spent many years teaching in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. His prize-winning stories are widely published in literary journals and he is the author of two novels, The Man Without and Electricity, which was nominated for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. He is a post-graduate of Lancaster University where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Creative Writing in 2006 and is a Literary Mentor for The Literary Consultancy. He lives in Manchester. For more information visit the author's website: www.themanwithout.com
By Julie 12 Aug 2011
I have just read this book twice in a row, something I rarely do. I enjoyed it even more the second time. If you like your fiction thrilling, fascinating, gritty, dark and edgy but with a touch of humour, then this is the book for you!
It is very different from Ray Robinsons other books. But equally exciting and well written.
The subject matter is fascinating being about a girl who is kidnapped and held captive for 8 years by a man in Arizona. A relationship develops between the kidnapper and the victim, known as Stockholm Syndrome. A subject that has recently been covered in the news as more and more cases around the world are discovered.
The story develops the two characters beautifully and you can almost understand what drove the man to such insanity when you hear about his upbringing.
I would love to see this be made into a movie one day, it certainly would give The Silence of the Lambs a run for it's money!
By Vanessa 10 Aug 2011
Forgetting Zoe is not a gruesome, voyeuristic novel inviting the reader to excuse kidnapper's actions, or simply empathizing with the distraught mother, Ingrid, but instead is a beautiful, painful and unsettling novel which causes the reader to question their own instincts to manipulate and control in different relationships, consider the ways in which we might react to the shock of losing a loved one or the possibility of having to see the true character of someone we care about, in the cold light of evidence, and the responsibility we may have in the situation we find ourselves in.
Ray Robinson's gift of making seemingly insignificant observations vital and evocative, are what the reader can relate to, even if the subject matter is, hopefully, far removed from anything they have experienced. Robinson does not 'spoon-feed' his audience and, instead, leaves them to put the pieces together for themselves. Forgetting Zoe is truly a book which will stay with you long after you have read the last page.
By Ouiji 10 Aug 2011
It's the ultimate nightmare, imprisonment. But in the case of Zoë Nielsen it was not just another bad dream: it happened. She was 10 when it all began, when she had the bad luck to fall within the gaze of Thurman Hayes, a man living out his own horror story. Set in the US, Ray Robinson's third novel draws on real events in a narrative of alarming power. Among the most impressive voices of Britain's younger generation, Robinson is an uncompromising witness.
Each of the major characters in Forgetting Zoe is thoughtfully examined in turn. Their motivations are partially revealed; the rest is left to the reader, as Robinson is too skilled to offer easy judgments. It is interesting to see praise from Jim Crace included on the book jacket: one would have to look to Crace's Being Dead (1999) to recall a British novel as convincing and as calmly aware of its own menace, its ambivalence. Also of note is that Robinson has achieved something that has consistently evaded British writers, with the possible exception of Jonathan Raban: he has evoked an authentic sense of the US, particularly in the sequences in the Arizona desert.
Thurman Hayes is more than a monster: he is a damaged psyche tormented by his father's cruelty and his mother's dangerous passivity. "Father scratched his weather-tanned neck. His grin was a challenge . . . Thurman was almost fifteen years old and claimed to have an upset stomach. Father said that if he was staying at home then he had to help him out on the ranch, you choose. When Father looked into the rhyme of Thurman's face it was obvious he hated what he saw: his own weaknesses, his failings."
The boy is numb, wrung dry and emotionally paralysed by his father's presence. On discovering the girlie magazines that his father has kept hidden, the boy gazes at them. "But no matter how long he stared at the images, he failed to feel a thing." The boy has begun to sleepwalk through life, or so it seems, merely watching.
From the outset Robinson imposes Thurman's disconnected personality on the narrative. Equally compelling is the elegantly cryptic prose, complete word pictures emerging from single sentences: "The slam of the front door; the sound of Father's pickup revving: tires." (This is interesting: a British writer, having set his novel in the US, is using US spelling.) For Thurman the sight of his father's hands "only ever spoke one word and that word was hurt".
One could almost begin to feel sorry for Thurman, the only child of aging parents. He speaks in an old-fashioned, mannerly way; he seems diffident. But the evil is there, seething away in the form of all the slights he has ever suffered.
Meanwhile, across the continent, on Unnr Island, in northern Canada, an imaginative little girl is searching for happiness. Zoë is another child who has never had it easy. Her mother lives in a state of self-absorption. "Ingrid. Never 'Mom' or 'Mommy.' " Within a short sentence Robinson reveals volumes about the relationship between the mother and daughter. When Zoë goes missing Ingrid begins to look for her. The search of the cottage leads Ingrid into every possible hiding place. "The silence of the house never seemed so loud."
Eventually the mother checks the child's room. "She stood looking at the straw crosses above Zoë's headboard, to protect her from the trolls, the men of the Underworld. Her unmade bed of ruffled pink sheets. Moppy, her stuffed bunny, and the drawings on the walls. Had Ingrid ever spent this long in her daughter's room just looking?"
No trace of the child is found. There are no clues. Ingrid continues to search, "Zoë's body in her mind, bobbing in slow sea-time." People run out of sympathy; they talk about her behind her back: "There's that Ingrid Nielsen. She still thinks her daughter's alive." The child's father, Jon, a Norwegian sailor with whom Ingrid had a brief romance years before, returns to help find the child. But he leaves, and being alone proves too much for Ingrid.
Robinson has written a thriller: he summons the menace, the devices, the details, the way pieces fit. Above all he looks to the way in which people respond, and how they forget, once the novelty wears off and they return to their own lives. The public as much as the criminal is on trial here, albeit a detached, non-judgmental trial. Robinson is studying the jailer and the captive; Thurman is trapped by his own madness. The real tragedy is how the ordeal shapes and distorts Zoë. For her the torment becomes the familiar; ultimately she needs Thurman.
For Zoë survival settles into an ongoing game of cat and mouse; the characterisation of Thurman is precise and unsettling. The brutality is shocking, yet subtle such is Robinson's eerie compassion. He sustains the pace and the psychological intensity, as well as, most importantly, the ambivalence. The older, now-grown Zoë retreats into anonymity, behind a shield of abrasive asides, deliberate weight gain and tracksuits. Freedom becomes another ordeal.
A strange little episode near the end of the novel says, as do so many of Robinson's elliptic observations, so much. Zoë, having admitted that her life was also ended when her captor died, is staying at a hotel. A birdcage is hanging in the courtyard. "She opens the door to the cage. 'Go on. Fly. Be free.' But the bird just sits there."
Eileen Battersby is Literary Correspondent of The Irish Times
By Sarah Hodgson 10 Aug 2011
This is the most memorable book I have ever read. Ray Robinson writes so beautifully he ensures the reader empathises with both the main characters in this unimaginable story of a girl living in fear, and how the life of the man imprisoning her created an abuser. It is difficult to do this book justice, I honestly could not put this book down.
By Megan Taylor 09 Aug 2011
It is rare to come across writing as fine as this - as compelling as it is beautiful, 'Forgetting Zoe' is truly heartbreaking and head-changing. I had to keep stopping to savour the language and to catch my emotions. I've read it twice now, and I know that I'll be reading it again.
"I read Forgetting Zoe with great pleasure, admiration, and envy. What a writer. The characters are so sharply drawn they're etched into the page... Captivating. A great storytelling achievement." -- Tim Pears "A convincing portrait of how childhood brutality is passed down the generations...Direct in its depiction of abuse, Forgetting Zoe is never less than psychologically acute." Financial Times "Stockholm syndrome is a curious but understandable condition, intelligently and vividly explored by Ray Robinson...Ray Robinson is a writer with keen observation. His prose is hard, abrupt and sinewy...It is a novel that contains violence but also stillness, that reveals more than it makes explicit...A mature and accomplished work. " -- Allan Massie The Scotsman "Very provocative...Powerfully done." -- Tom Sutcliffe Saturday Review, Radio 4 "Terribly convincing...The ventriloquism is very skilled." -- Kevin Jackson Saturday Review, Radio 4