The Possession Of Mr Cave By Matt Haig – A Review

Publisher: Canongate

Whoa. This book has taken me completely by surprise. In a very good way.

I picked it up in a charity shop never having read any of Matt Haig’s books (but only ever having heard good things about his writing).

I knew from the blurb that the Mr Cave of the title has suffered great loss and grief after the deaths of his mother, wife and some time later the death of his son. This left him with his 14 year old daughter Bryony as the centre of his world. I knew what follows is that Mr Cave becomes over protective of his daughter, fearing losing her too.

What I didn’t know was just how dark this story was going to be and just how literal the ‘possession’ in the title would be.

The book starts with a description of the death of Reuben, the son of Terence (Mr Cave). He watches as his son hangs from a lamppost as a kind of dare. Egged on by a group of boys Terrence has never seen his son with before. Terrence heartbreakingly witnesses Reuben fall from the lamppost and die right there in front of him on the pavement. He also witnesses the reactions of the boys in the crowd and one boy in particular who he develops an obsession with.

Right from this moment onwards Terrence sees a massive change in his daughters behaviour. Having previously been the golden girl, obsessed with her cello and her horse. The one that had a keen interest in school, who excelled and never gave any cause for concern. The one who was sent to the private school whilst her brother had to make do with the local comprehensive. After the loss of her brother, Bryony starts to rebel. In small ways at first, and Terrence starts to feel his grip on her diminishing. Their relationship faltering and becoming strained and distant.

At first this story read like any typical teenager/parent relationship. Terrence disapproving of the clothes Bryony wears, the friend she has taken to hanging around with and wanting to know where she’s going and when she’ll be back. Nothing wrong with that…..

Until Terrence begins try to exert more and more control over Bryony. Delirious with the need to protect her. Going to ever further lengths to try to regain his relationship with her and ultimately keep her safe.

But why does he keep having black outs. Dizzy spells. Whisps of memories that don’t appear to be his own?

Why is he so desperate to keep a hold of Bryony. What is he so afraid of?

This story is so heartbreaking even from the first few pages. Watching this poor bereaved man fall apart and unravel before your eyes.

He is completely consumed by his losses. The suicide of his mother, the traumatic death of his wife and the tragic death of Reuben. He is completely eaten up with guilt about the way he treated Reuben, and the disparity between that and his treatment of Bryony.

I like to think I can handle dark tales, and I can. The darker the better. When I tweeted that I was going to start reading this someone replied hinting at how dark it was. I lapped if up. Bring it on! But this book was surprising. It messes with your mind. In a fantastic way. And although I’ve read much more harrowing tales, this one crept up on me.

Having never read any Matt Haig before I will certainly now go on to seek out his back catalogue. His writing is extremely compelling. Written without definite chapter delineation it almost feels like a stream of consciousness which lends itself so well to the unravelling of Terence’s mind.

Overall I loved this surprising gem of a book and would thoroughly recommend it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

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