The Winnowing by Chris Fyles is a disturbing and perplexing novel: disturbing by confronting head on some serious issues like bullying, racism and mental health; perplexing because when you reach the end of the novel you are not sure whether or not you have become part of the delusional world of the protagonist Richard Brot.
You first meet Richard Brot as an adult living a squalid alcoholic life-style and believe me author Chris Fyles has written such a vivid, detailed account of Brot's daily life that you can almost smell him. However you become intrigued by Brot and start to wonder how he ever got into such a state. The author then takes you back to Brot's school days and family life and you accompany him as he moves forward towards maturity. Brot is the narrator in this novel and he seems to want three things: a girlfriend, to be popular and to do what's right. He is particularly bothered about morality and doing the right thing but things don't always work out as he would wish.
I can't exactly say I enjoyed reading The Winnowing but it was definitely worth reading. The author writes well with a sharp incisive style and there is some good dialogue although there is some unusual formatting of some of the dialogue sections. All the characters are well drawn and create strong impressions as you read. Brot comes over like a genuine adolescent and his so called friends are equally authentic.
I am still puzzling over the title: winnowing is to sort out the wheat from the chaff or more figuratively, to sift through the evidence. And that is what I'm left trying to do - get really to the heart of what is going on in this novel. I think it is a novel that will stand up to reading again and I don't think that there is any greater compliment to a novel than that.