John Knox falls passionately and irrevocably in love with Rachel McAllistair the first time they meet.
He interviews her for his radio show, and afterwards, when he tells her how impressive she was, she hits him, square on the jaw.
Undeterred, he pursues her, promising to love her and never to leave her.
This promise becomes his burden, as her behaviour whirls out of control.
She is abusive and cruel. And yet he stays. Even when she does something so awful that his life is changed forever. And that point, on which his life turns, leads him to an unexpected connection with a man who suffered a terrible injury in the first world war.
The Death of the Poet is a daringly honest, transfixing story about being in thrall to someone, being a victim and a protector, and how early promise can turn into an utterly unrecognisable life.
An exploration of violence and what it means to be a man in the modern world, it's controversial, devastating, and, in a complicated way, romantic too.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 04/04/2014
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781846689338
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Review by naturalbri
The Story: John Knox, a radio presenter for KVOC radio, is a Canadian born living in the states. He believes in having a voice and using it to benefit his listeners, by telling them what needs to be said. However, this all changes when he meets her. She's different from any other guest he's had on his show, and she's not afraid to make her opinion heard. John heard her, and felt her, as her fist made contact with his jaw. Without knowing what he had done wrong, she stormed from his studio, but not from his mind. John was in love. Love can be a tricky creature though and this was shown in the years John and Rachel fought to keep it together. During that time, John cam to realise that Rachel was passionate, outspoken, broken and abusive. He, like so many others who are caught in such relationships, thought he could 'fix' her brokenness. He saw the gentle, loving person Rachel could be, on her good days. His inner hope was that his love for her could bring out that Rachel and she could lose the dark, ominous, painful Rachel, whom he feared. As the months and years passed, John came to realise that he was living a nightmare. He feared everything about their life. He couldn't avoid the arguments - by saying nothing he upset you, by agreeing he upset you and if he pretended not to be upset - he upset you. He came to realise it was only a matter of time until she took their arguements to the next level. He was trapped. He loved her with every fibre of his being, but her feared her. He couldn't tell people his situation, with the stigma that goes with men being beaten 'who let's his wife/partner beat him' and the fear that he would lose Rachel. How does one get out of the cycle of an abusive relationship? John Knox spends every moment trying to figure this out, while his job, his life and his friends all fall to ruin, but he can't see past his need, his love for Rachel and his urge to fix her. Without warning, their world was turned upside down, as Rachel found out she was pregnant. As time goes by, John lives for their child, trying to decide what he should do to protect their baby. He loses everything and himself, after several arguments, public hhumiliation and a horrific accident, their whole life is uprooted. Finally, John and Rachel move to his childhood home, with memories of being trapped in the shed and travelling through the wood and over the lagoon with his childhood friend, to start their life again. The accident has changed things. Rachel is always away, and when she is home she isn't really there. John and their child build a life together, and John makes the discovery of a diary, written by a WWI veteran, when he is asked to send it abroad, to Rachel. He feels an unwritten connect to this man. His appearance is just as gruesome as John's and somehow he feels he knows, he is one with the author. As life takes a final, tumultuous turn, John makes the rash decision to go on a discovery of self. He devoures each of the veteran's diaries, feeling the connection between them growing. In the end, he experiences life through the eye of the veteran and finally reaches a point of happiness. He learns to let go of the past and is prepared to move forward and live to the fullest with his child. On his journey home, he experiences the butterflies of the poet and knows his happiness is complete. OVERALL Reaction: I Loved this book completely. I do feel that it may be one that is an eye opener for those who have never experienced or known anyone who was trapped in an abusive situation. For those, and as you may see on some reviews, it is hard to complerhend why someone would stay in such a situation. However, being someone who has both experienced and watched someone else suffer at the wrath of someone we loved, I can say that this book is the most insightful description of the situation one is in, when they are in the cycle of abuse. I found myself connecting with John Knox, understanding, feeling and even shedding tears as I felt what he felt, as I knew that feeling of being trapped and in despair. I feel that Woolf knew what he was doing when he wrote this book. The emotions are raw and real, they really exude what someone feels and thinks when they are in this situation. He also explains the other side. The fear, the care, the love for the person causing you pain. You know Rachel, you hate her and love her at the same time. You feel sorrow for her and want to help change her. Woolf wrote in a way that, I feel, was perfect to show exactly how abusive relationships cycle. There are times that John felt things had gotten better and then a story changer would pop up and Rachel would explode. John did everything he could to stay out of her way and hope for the best. I have never read anything so well written, about such a tough, and unspoken subject. I, personally, love that Woolf had the journals and connection between the veteran and John in the story. I find that people who are in such situations often find a place, person or things they can connect to. This veteran's story became his obsession, his path. He followed every detail and, in the end, found his own happiness. I found the historical links within the story, gave it more substance, base and connected you to the era. I found they also made the characters more relistic. The last two pages, and their historical connection as well as the outcome, were suprising to me. I felt so much in those last few sentences. The perfect way to end the story. I think this book is perfection. We often hear of abusive relationships where the woman is the victim of one or more of the many forms of abuse, but Woolf showed us the hidden victims of abuse. A daring, bold book for one's first and I feel that Woolf has done it better than anyone has before. He got into the characters and their emotions. It is truly a fantastic read, unlike any other you will have read before, but be prepared to take on a mindset you may not have encountered before.