Hi everyone! Today I will be reviewing Kit Crumpton’s second novel The Fading of Lloyd, which I kindly received from the publisher and Booktasters. The novel begins in 1941 and a 30-year-old man, Lloyd Huttleston, lies dead. He had been receiving insulin shock therapy, a way to treat schizophrenia, at Elgin State Hospital in Illnois. The novel then travels back in time to when Lloyd’s father, Clifford, is a young boy and runs away from home. We see him grow up and start a family, and the book slowly begins to reveal why Lloyd was placed in the psychatric hospital.
Crumpton cleverly charts the development of a nation through one man. As Clifford grows from a boy into a man, the reader also witnesses the advancements in American society. These are primarily shown through technology, such as the railways, and science with a scene from a medical conference. There are also references to both World Wars and women’s suffrage. Crumpton effectively weaves these historical events into the narrative, discussing the changing landscape of a country while still dealing with the personal events of Clifford’s life, without making the story feel cluttered.
The amount of research that went into the novel is clearly evident, and enhanced my enjoyment of the book. I only had rough idea about mental health care during this period previously, but Crumpton goes into detail. It was very fascinating and I will be diving into the bibliography at the end to find out more. But the novel isn’t burdened with massive information dumps. Instead, you learn about medical practices quite organically through plot development.
The development of the characters was also well-done. Clifford in particular was a very well-rounded character. He felt very much like a man of his time, and though he does some problematic things, Crumpton still makes you sympathise with him. She doesn’t retroactively judge him which I liked. Lloyd’s three sisters were also a highlight for me. They all had distinct personalities that shone in the scenes they were in. I particularly liked the character of Jean, who appeared to have quite a complex relationship with her brother and struggled with his mental health.
However at times the novel was awkwardly written. One example occurs at the end of a chapter, as Clifford leaves home;
‘It was beyond Clifford’s imagination that several years later he would see a shirt stained with blood, inflicted by his own hand, using his own belt, on his own son, Lloyd’. pg 32.
Out of context this sentence seems perfectly fine. However, we had previously been told Lloyd is Clifford’s only son so the last part seems superfluous. Just having either ‘his own son’ or ‘Lloyd’ would have worked. There is also a moment where ‘The Great War’ is mentioned and immediately after Crumpton writes WW1. Because the term ‘The Great War’ is commonly associated with the First World War, and given the year is printed with the chapter title, it felt unnecessary to write both names for the war. Moments like these felt a little clunky, and would make me pause, taking me out of the story.
Overall The Fading of Lloyd was a very quick, interesting read, and I found it a fascinating look at mental health at the beginning of the 20th century. The characters and prose were well-written, and I could quite happily have spent more time with them. Crumpton also manages to evoke the time period well. If you are interested in historical fiction I think you may enjoy this.
The Fading of Lloyd is published by Golden Word Books and you can find more information here.