White Goods is a novel about loss and the search for the truth, set in the south of England at the beginning of the 1980’s, and told through the eyes of a deceptive eleven-year-old boy.
It opens very dramatically: a child is pushed into the icy, open mouth of a chest freezer and the lid is slammed shut. His identity and fate are central to the story, but remain a mystery until the end.
Our narrator, Scot Buckley, is a complex young man, who lives under the shadow of absence: his mother, Theresa, encounters a horrific death at the start of the book. He has two siblings: Della, 14 and Ian, 16. His father, Tony, runs an illicit set-up out of his own back yard – an operation that receives and sells on white boxes containing white goods.
The rest of his family consist of his Aunt Stella and her boyfriend, Gary, whom the children are encouraged to refer to as Uncle.
There is also ‘Jackie’: an unspecified relation, out of the picture, of whom no one is prepared to talk. However, Scot does not accept this and is determined to uncover the truth.
Aside from the chest freezer imprisoning the child at the outset, other domestic goods feature heavily in the story. Despite its moderate size, the Buckleys’ house is literally crammed full of every possible modern convenience available: from Teasmades to stereo hi-fis; if it is available, they have it. They are also the first family in the street to own a microwave; this appears in the Buckleys’ kitchen just days after Theresa’s demise, seemingly her replacement.
Theresa is also gruesomely linked to large, white appliance: her death is the result of a gory accident with a dishwasher. However, all is not as it initially seems and, each time Scot recalls her death, the scene and the actual cause are different.
Scot’s talent for lying is applied as a key narrative device to create a sense of intrigue in White Goods. It also distracts the reader as the story heads towards an unforeseen twist. From the elusive Shirley White, who appears at significant points in his life, to his unsettling relationship with his aunt’s boyfriend; all are stories that Scott uses to pull the reader away from the truth, until he is ready to reveal it.
As the novel reaches its climax, the biggest deception of all is uncovered. It is a revelation that turns the story on its head and changes the reader’s perception of what has occurred so far – and of what is likely to happen next.
The mystery that opens the book is the final one to unfold: we discover what happened to the child in the freezer. It isn’t the expected: when the lid of the chest freezer is again lifted, we realise that – true to form - our narrator has misled us one final time.
Novel to be published autumn 2012...