Thursday, July 15, 2021

"The Boy in the Photo"

Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realized the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because—as her professor pointed out—'It's not meant to be a story.' She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters' degree in Children's Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.

The idea for her first published novel, The Boy Under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story. Her second novel, Three Hours Late, was voted one of Fifty Books you can't put down in 2013 and her third novel, The Secrets in Silence, was The Australian Woman's Weekly Book of the month for June 2014.

Trope lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Boy in the Photo and reported the following:
From page 69:
‘Maybe I can live with Nana and Pop?’ he once said to Daddy.

‘They don’t want you either. No one in that family does. I’m the only one who truly loves you, Daniel, the only one.’

He is hungry but he won’t wake Daddy up. He gets angry if he’s woken up. He touches his cheek because he can feel he’s crying again and he’s not allowed to cry. He is not allowed to be ‘weak’. But sometimes it’s hard not to cry when there is a ball of sadness inside him all the time. He wishes he could make it go away but he can’t. He’s almost used to it now and he knows to only cry quietly so Daddy doesn’t hear him.

He wipes his face. He needs to be strong and he needs to be grateful that Daddy loves him. He can’t cry. He has to be strong and he has to be grateful.
This was quite fascinating to read and a pretty good test of what the novel is about, although it benefits from context.

In this passage readers are experiencing the world from Daniel’s perspective. When he is abducted at six years old by his father, Greg, he is a happy, loving child. Greg makes it his mission to turn Daniel against this mother and extended family. It is a necessary part of Greg’s control and in this passage the confusion and despair Daniel is feeling are very evident. He is seven years old and still longing for his old life.

He has little choice but to believe whatever his father tells him because he has been removed from everything else he has ever known. When Daniel returns at twelve, he is troubled and distant, but when reading through his chapters, it becomes apparent why this is the case. His experience of the world after being taken by his father shapes his personality and Daniel is the child around whom the whole novel revolves. The concept of parental alienation which is when one parent attempts to turn their child against the other parent is vividly on display here. Readers can hopefully feel Daniel’s bewilderment even as they witness the first in a long line of changes in his personality that turn him into the angry, aggressive child who returns home after six years. Here he attempts to find a way to be in the world, knowing his mother no longer loves him. And once Greg has convinced him of this-he has forever changed who Daniel is.
Follow Nicole Trope on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue