Book Reviews

Book Review: The Big Picture – Douglas Kennedy

Year: 1997
Country: England
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Review: The Big Picture - Douglas Kennedy

When I picked this book from the crime fiction section, It came across as one of those unassuming novels. The cover didn’t give anything away until I read the jacket and got quite interested. Somehow, it should be thrilling enough. That’s the only explanation for all of the discomfort brought about by the weight of the book.

Ben Bradford is your regular middle – class next door neighbor with a good life. Wall Street lawyer, gorgeous wife, brilliant children. 6 figure paycheck. Big house in an affluent neighborhood. Basically a designer life. What else could he ask for? Unfortunately, he was deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with himself and his good life. This eventually seeped into his marriage and career which he absolutely hated because he had to give up his childhood dream of professional photography. Along the line, his marriage ended and he committed murder by accident. This was the beginning of the rest of his life. Of course, every single thing changed.

The Big Picture addresses sensitive issues like marriage/divorce, identity, murder/crime, passion/dreams, responsibility, grief, and my personal favorite, photography. Each of these themes made lasting impressions on me and I’m going talk about a couple of them and how they resonated with me.

  • Marriage/Divorce

Can I just say that I have a new perspective on divorce because I think people are inherently selfish? Ben clearly knew his marriage was on the verge of collapse but every single time, he reached out to his wife to talk about it, she pushed him aside, even as far as giving him the silent treatment for months. Her mind was clearly made up. I absolutely hated that they didn’t even make an attempt to fix it. Counseling, Therapy. Whatever. They didn’t even try. Instead, Beth went ahead to have an affair with their neighbor. Although, I wouldn’t blame her because she had made it clear to Ben at the onset that she wasn’t interested in marriage. But he persuaded her until she gave in and it all came crashing down like a block of bricks. I feel like I understand the current alarming divorce rate. People are selfish, lazy and are not ready to put in the work!

  • Identity/Passion/Dreams

I hate that people underrate the importance of self-discovery. Finding yourself really saves a lot of future problems especially in career and marriage. Ben knew what he wanted but still wallowed in self-pity the whole time. It’s important to know what makes you tick to avoid falling for undue pressure. This probably took a lot of convincing but I’ve learned that in order to support your dreams and passions especially if it’s in the creative industry, you would have to make sacrifices. For instance, working in the corporate world to afford gadgets and gears. There were a lot of lessons to learn from Ben especially how he managed to make so much money from writing wills and being miserable while at it. Eventually, just as he was about to become senior partner, he gave it all up. He literally gave that life up for self-fulfilment. That took a lot of gut if you ask me.

  • Photography

This was easily my favorite reference. Ben got his first camera at an early age and decided to pursue photography. But because his father wasn’t pleased with his career choice and he didn’t get his big break fast enough, he had to give it up. When he became financially buoyant, he began collecting cameras as a guilty pleasure of sorts. The Big Picture was written in the 90’s before the era of DSLRs. So, there were darkrooms and films, negatives, chemicals. It was such a thrilling experience. Even before his big break in his second life, I loved how he took photographs with so much passion as well as some of his tips and tricks he used to achieve great portraits. He reignited the fire in me and reminded me again why I want to take up photography. I literally cannot wait. It also reiterated that hard work pays. Just keep at it. Your time would come.
It was an enjoyable and well-balanced debut novel. It took me on a roller-coaster of emotions and it did not drop me for once. I absolutely loved how it put some things into perspective. The storytelling was impeccable and the transition was seamless. It left me spellbound.

When I was done, I had to put up an instastory. Truly, the best books are usually unknown.

Rating: *****

Leave a Reply