Gravesend by William Boyle reviewed

Gravesend Book Cover Gravesend
William Boyle

Ray Boy Calabrese is released from prison 16 years after his actions led to the death of a young man. The victim's brother, Conway D'Innocenzio, is a 29-year-old Brooklynite wasting away at a local Rite Aid, stuck in the past and still howling for Ray Boy's blood. When the chips are down and the gun is drawn, Conway finds that he doesn't have murder in him. Thus begins a spiral of self-loathing and soul-searching into which he is joined by Alessandra, a failed actress caring for her widowed father, and Eugene, Ray Boy's hellbound nephew. Ray Boy Calabrese is back in Gravesend: some people worship him, some want him dead . . . but none more so than the ex-con himself.

I really found the basic premise of Gravesend by William Boyle appealing. Ray Boy is released from prison after serving 16 years for causing the death of Conway’s brother. He returns home to find that Conway wants to kill him. To Conway’s surprise Ray Boy is happy with that. Conway finds the idea of killing easier than actually doing it. The book looks at their stories and the lives of others in the neighbourhood they grew up in. So far so good..

I found quite quickly that I was not gripped by this story. In part it may have been the colloquial dialogue – Brooklyn – however I’ve read plenty of similar styles over the years with no adverse effects. The characters tend to fall into two camps. The older generation who don’t understand the younger ones and the younger ones. There are a few of these who have not managed to leave the area. An odd one out is Alessandra who has returned after something of a career in Hollywood. I liked her as a character – indeed she probably worked better than any of the others for me.

In the end I didn’t really get this story. I wasn’t gripped by it or engaged with any of the characters really. I’d envisaged something of a reveal about Duncan’s death. He was the person who died in part as a result of Ray Boy’s actions. However that aspect of the story never came alive (or to any great prominence) as far as I was concerned. I realise that many people have enjoyed this book but sadly I’m not one of them.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review