The The Penitent Heart

The The Penitent Heart : One man's journey from despair to hope.

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The Penitent Heart, is one man's journey from despair to hope. It is the story of Bill, a hapless househusband, who while being under the influence of alcohol causes a road traffic accident, and the subsequent death of the other driver. Overloaded with stress and guilt, Bill suffers a debilitating emotional breakdown. Bill abandons his wife, Ruth, and her three young daughters by her first marriage, to become a cook on a charter yacht bound for the Amazon. Bill may have run away from his wife, his family, and his responsibilities, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't run away from the shadowy spectre of his past. He realizes that one day, sooner than later, he will have to decide whether to keep on running or stop and face the music.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 382 pages
  • 133 x 203 x 20mm | 394.63g
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1913471012
  • 9781913471019

Review quote

Bill Drysdale is middle aged and has a comfortable middle class existence. But he's basically just the househusband of a successful QC. Restless and dissatisfied, he drinks more than he should. Then a fatal accident on the road changes Bill's life forever. He wasn't directly responsible for the death and isn't imprisoned, but the guilt slowly creeps up on him, exacerbated by a driving ban that leaves him feeling trapped. Taking a sober view of his life, he spirals down towards a breakdown.

But a chance encounter on a much-needed holiday opens Bill's eyes to new possibilities. He believes it is his yearning for adventure that drives him to abandon his old life and apply for a position on the chartered boat heading off on a supposedly scientific expedition into the Amazon. But he is simply convincing himself he's chasing after something rather than just running away. The expedition will take Bill into dangerous new territory, from which there may be no coming back.

Alex Willis's novel is like Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim rewritten as a modern thriller. Both are about someone fleeing from his past mistakes rather than truly facing up to them, and walking a rocky road towards any kind of redemption. There's more than a slight nod towards Conrad's Heart of Darkness too with the section of the book set on the expedition downriver. Bill's emotional plight is very much at the centre of the fast-moving plot, which makes this a character-led thriller, written in a dialogue-led style.

A proper old fashioned adventure story, with a couple of neat twists along the way. Alex creates a couple of, very believable, villains and this reader took great delight in their eventual downfall. A perfect bit of escapism and ideally suited for a pool side read.

An absorbing read this, by Alex Willis. The story of Bill, a character trying to escape his past but is drawn into a life of intrigue and adventure that takes him on a yacht to South America and the Amazon River. He mixes with a colourful collection of characters who let him down, build him up and help him understand himself. A well thought out story with just the right amount of detail and information for a satisfying read. Look forward to more from Alex.
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