‘The Boy in the Field’ by Margot Livesey – An Economy of Style

‘The Boy in the Field’ by Margot Livesey    (2020) – 272 pages

‘The Boy in the Field’ begins with three children from the same family, a boy Mathew aged 17 and a girl Zoe aged 15 and another adopted boy Duncan aged 14, saving a life. They discover a boy in a field who has been severely injured in an assault. They get an ambulance thus saving his life.

The following chapters each are from the point of view of one of these three young siblings. Matthew, while trying to track down the assailant, finds out that his girlfriend has become involved with his best friend. Zoe has her first real love affair. Perhaps most poignant, Duncan begins a quest to find his real mother. Meanwhile their parents are having their own problems in their relationship.

The story takes place in Oxford, England.

The sparseness, economy of style, and the short declarative sentences in this novel reminded me of the trend of minimalism among United States writers more than those of England. Most of the famous minimalist fiction writers were from the United States following in Raymond Carver’s footsteps at the Iowa Writers Workshop. I do not associate minimalism with English writers at all.

Margot Livesey was born in Scotland and now lives in the Boston area. It turns out that she is now a professor of fiction at this Iowa Writers Workshop which is the epicenter of the minimalist movement in fiction.

Here is a good example of the minimalist style of Livesey from the character Zoe:

The pavement echoed under her new boots, the people she passed looked chilled, cramped, in their tiny lives, the blood inching through their veins. Litter rattled across the pavement; a beer can rolled in the gutter.”

I have read more than my fair share of minimalist fiction and I do like its plain no-nonsense style. It was quite unusual to find an English novel written in this fashion, but as shown above Margot Livesey does have the necessary credentials.

In the next to last chapter, all the main characters come together and the various strands of these three teenagers’ stories as well as one strand of their parents’ story are resolved. And then in the final chapter, we see the five members of the family in their new situations eight and a half years later. This is the grand finale.

‘The Boy in the Field’ has a real economy of style, so I won’t blather on about it.


Grade:    B+


5 responses to this post.

  1. This sounds good Tony – well structured. I quite like that minimal style too so this sounds like one to look out for.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. LOL Your last line made me laugh:)

    Liked by 1 person


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