This is a detective story set in 1980s Shrewsbury and Toronto. A social worker, Philip Eyre, searches for the father of a baby girl and finds himself obsessed by the girl’s mother who ends up in psychiatric hospital after trying to commit suicide. While investigating the case, Philip comes to question his own life – his own fathering and father.
The case apparently solved, Philip takes a job in Toronto as a researcher but becomes haunted by his own past. He returns to England, and a new obsession with the case gathers pace. Is the baby related to him? Are they connected by some strange literary provenance – Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre? By now he is randomly switching from one possibility, one bizarre plot about orphans and illegitimacy, to the next. He suffers a breakdown; the pursuit of an answer has turned back in on him; now he is the one who feels pursued.
The Book of Guardians is a haunting novel that leaves readers wondering whether it is possible to recall and know your own past with any degree of certainty.
‘The Book of Guardians grips the reader from the start, fearlessly delving into our secret selves. Its discoveries are unsettling and sometimes macabre, the writing audacious and eloquent.’ —Linda Anderson
‘Derek Neale's first novel is a remarkable debut. The Book of Guardians is an often touching examination of the philosophy of 'care', which tackles head-on the alienation and uncertainty of contemporary lives. Neale has taken the great theme of the Victorians – orphan-hood – and produced a subtle and engaging romance of childhood and identity, a story of the quest for origins and the torments of memory, and of the startlingly random connections between the abandoned and the secure which weave the texture of a life in our times.’ —Victor Sage