The Harrowing

Written by Robert Dinsdale
Review by Lisa Redmond

On the eve of joining his regiment in January 1916, William Redmond takes one last walk with his younger brother, Samuel, through the back streets of Leeds and onto the moor beyond. There, years of resentment rise to the surface and, sick of living in his brother’s shadow, Samuel strikes William down with a stone.

When William wakes he finds that Samuel has vanished and a conspiracy of silence is in place among his family, friends and neighbours – intended to prevent him from discovering that his under-age brother has been sent to the front in his place. Half-healed wound or not, William is determined to follow his brother and fetch him home, alive.

For a young author Dinsdale has remarkable insight into the complexities and contradictions of character and the mechanics of sibling rivalry. William sees that the way in which Samuel, a natural loner, is treated by the people around him perpetuating his status as an outsider. William is blind to the fact that it is precisely his attempts to protect his younger brother that led to Samuel’s burst of temper and instinctive bid for independence.

Occasionally, Dinsdale’s research strikes me as being a little dodgy but, somehow the atmosphere he conjures up is so convincing that I found myself questioning whether I wasn’t the one to have got the facts wrong. It is an intriguing reworking of the Cain and Abel story.