The Young Accomplice by Benjamin Wood review – a tender tale of learning from mistakes

Wood’s unnerving fourth novel follows young siblings from borstal to living on a farm in 50s England

“Was this how it was going to be for ever?” wonders Joyce Savigear, facing another afternoon of drudgery at EH Lacey’s department store in postwar Maidstone, Kent. Joyce is 16 and at a crossroads. Before her is mysterious Mal Duggan, looking invitingly up from the driving seat of a Daimler; behind her are endless hours of folding womenswear and polishing counters. “How much worse off would she be if she went driving with a stranger for a while?”

In due course, Joyce finds out, and Benjamin Wood’s latest novel, The Young Accomplice, is set in motion by the choice she makes. It is a choice that leads to a period in borstal for her and her younger brother, Charlie, developing into a story of opportunity, education and escaping the past. Like Wood’s previous novel, A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better, it concerns malign or misguided father figures, and the necessity of learning from mistakes.

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