Review: Tom Houghton by Todd Alexander

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A wonderfully immersive novel about facing up to who you are, and who you are not, Tom Houghton will keep you reading late into the night.


About the Book

tom houghtonAt twelve Tom Houghton knows he is different and embraces it. When his peers are playing footy Tom is inside building his catalogue of movie stars and reading biographies. At forty, Tom has channelled that difference into acting, yet he is less sure of who he really is now than he was at twelve; he’s become more difficult than different and the cracks are beginning to show. How did he become what he is today and can he change before he alienates everyone he loves?

My thoughts

Tom Houghton had my attention from the very first paragraph. I wanted to know more about this man and his demons, and the novel only deepened my interest when Tom takes up the narrative as a twelve year old.

The book alternates between young Tom and Tom at forty. Alexander never slips into the trap of an older Tom imposing his insights onto his younger self, but presents younger Tom’s chapters from the precocious twelve-year old’s point of view. Young Tom is insecure and witty in ways that make other kids see him as weird and some enjoy tormenting him because of it. As an adult Tom is a complex mix of insecurity, rudeness, lust and wit, and the interplay between him and his friend Hanna in the opening scene sets the tone for his adult years. Adult Tom can be a bit of a diva, snippy and calculating. There were a couple of moments early in the novel when I worried he was heading down a path of caricature. He never does. And it becomes apparent that he’s playing that role as much as any other. Pa, Lana and Tom are multi-layered and complex, and though we get very little of Pa there is enough for us to guess. Some of the family dysfunction is shown but much is left to the reader to deduce, and I think this is why the story is so immersive. Tom Houghton is about a boy’s search for identity and how his longing for escape and a lost family connection shape his choices—choices that have repercussions well into maturity. What’s in a name? In Tom’s case, quite a lot.

I absolutely loved this novel. The writing is skillful and subtle and the characterisation is brilliant. Tom Houghton is the perfect way to lose yourself for a few hours. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia for an ARC of Tom Houghton.

Expected publication: October 1st 2015 by Simon & Schuster AU
ISBN13: 9781925184556
List Price
AU$ 32.99
NZ$ 34.99

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About the Author

todd alexander author photo

Todd has 6 years’ experience as a bookseller and head office buyer and spent 12 years working at eBay, one of Australia’s most recognised brands. He lives in the Hunter Valley of NSW with his partner (cat, pigs, chooks and ducks) where they run a boutique vineyard and accommodation business, Block Eight. Todd has travelled to Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. A graduate of Macquarie University, he has degrees in Modern Literature and Law.

Read more about Todd Alexander

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Rowena Holloway
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Rowena Holloway

Writer, publisher, blogger at RowenaHollowayNovels.com
Rowena Holloway considers herself a reformed academic who discovered fiction writing was preferable to the real world. She indulges her love of suspense fiction by writing novels and short stories about Fractured Families and Killer Secrets. Her novels have been nominated for the Ned Kelly Award and semi-finaled in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and her short stories have been included in several anthologies including the Anthology of Award Winning Australian Writing. She also reviews fiction, interviews fellow writers, and blogs about books and writing.
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