Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
Published by Scribner UK
Published 7 April 2016
NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Roscoe has set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the 20th century: electricity. It becomes his training, his life’s work. But when his wife Marie inherits her father’s failing farm, Roscoe has to give it up, with great cost to his pride and sense of self, his marriage and his family.
Realising that he might lose them all, he uses his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness on a farm recently falling to ruin. Even the love of Marie and their son seems back within Roscoe’s grasp.
Then everything changes. A young man is electrocuted on their land. Roscoe is arrested for manslaughter and – no longer an electrician or even a farmer – he must now carve out a place in a violent new world.
The electrical transformers that would one day kill George Haskin sat high on a pole about ten yards off the northeast corner of the farm where Roscoe T Martin lived with his family.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I really enjoyed Work like Any Other. I thought the characters were really sympathetic. Even though Roscoe is sent to prison for manslaughter and isn’t a very nice guy I found him easy to relate to and sympathise with. George Haskin’s death was not through intent so he’s not a cold blooded murderer. He was just an unhappy guy trying to do his best. Farming wasn’t his dream or passion so it’s easy to see how wiring up electricity to the farm would appeal to him. I felt so sorry for him when Marie cuts him out of her life and doesn’t even visit him in prison. Part of me could understand her motivations; Roscoe lied to her about why the farm had electricity, his actions caused someone else, he roped his friend Wilson into the mess who also ended up in jail and his actions made her realise how unhappy he was with their life together. I felt so awful for him. She should at least have given him a chance to have his say and apologise. It was also pretty shitty that she kept his son from him. The book is set in the 1920’s. The place and setting is well written and the author really brings this period of history to life. I enjoyed the sections with Roscoe in prison the most. He paid for his stupidity. Work like Any Other doesn’t have a happy ending as such but a satisfactory one. I really enjoyed Work like Any Other and would recommend it.