Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Killer's Tears - Anne-Laure Bondoux

First published 2006; cover shown is the first edition softcover by Allen & Unwin (Aust). Cover art by Armin Greder; cover design by Sandra Nobes. 164 pages.

I'm currently working my way through Just Kidding: Top Writers for Young People Talk About Their Work by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, an Australian publication which features 12 interviews with writers such as John Marsden, Patricia Wrightson, Simon French and Paul Jennings. They have some fascinating things to say about Young Adult fiction, and I was inspired to try a title from the genre myself.

The Killer's Tears could be regarded as Young Adult or Adult fiction; it is a deeply moving story that left me in tears. Set in Chile in the 1980s, the story opens with a description of the landscape in which the boy, Paolo, has grown up: a desolate, wind ravaged land at the end of the world, the loneliness and isolation is palpable.

On page 3 Paolo's parents are murdered by Angel Allegria, a killer on the run who has arrived at their farm to seek refuge. Paolo's life is spared when he promises he can make soup for Angel, and an uneasy companionship is formed. Months slip by, with Angel feeling increasingly secure in his new role as Paolo's "father".

The arrival at the farm of a second stranger - Luis, an educated and wealthy man seeking solitude - causes Angel's insecurities and anger to resurface. Soon he is fighting for Paolo's attention. Luis begins teaching Paolo to read and write; Angel brings Paolo a fox cub for a pet. This rivalry for the boy's affection continues for months, with Angel's hatred for Luis growing and his thoughts never far from the knife he has stashed in the kitchen cupboard.

When all of the goats on the farm grow old and die, Angel locks the farmhouse up and the long journey to the main town begins. Luis has promised to pay for sheep and a cow, and Paolo is simply excited to be travelling somewhere new.

Their visit in the town begins a chain of events which will result in betrayal and ultimately death. Angel, who is described as "the murderer" throughout, will be redeemed by love. And Paolo, the boy with a mind screaming out for life and knowledge, will finally become a man. A Killer's Tears is a definite must-read.

Anne-Laure Bondoux (b. 1971) is a French writer.

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