A synopsis of the plot of Tom Rob Smith’s “The Farm”:
The parents of a gormless young Englishman retire to a farm in Sweden. Mom develops paranoia. Or maybe there are sinister goings-on in rural Sweden and her enemies are really out to get her.
Either way, the most striking element of the plot, as far as I’m concerned, is the way it illustrates the dangers, or more exactly horrors, of life in a very small community. It doesn’t matter whether the most prominent local farmer is an evil conspirator or simply tends to take advantage of his status as a big fish in a small pond, or whether his friend the doctor is part of a cabal or just trying to be helpful. The point is that as soon as you join such a community you’re dependent on a small group of people whom you didn’t choose. A nest of criminals would be a worst case scenario, but simple incompatibility is bad enough.
I don’t know whether Tom Rob Smith has Swedish ancestors or just adapted to what seems to be an unwritten convention among Scandinavian writers, which is to be depressing. Is it because they generally do their writing in the winter, never seeing the sun and often contemplating suicide? Is it just an accidental impression made on the reader by repeated descriptions of darkness and cold? Whatever the explanation, I usually avoid them.
The Farm was no more depressing than average, for story set in Scandinavia. The plot was interesting, but the book would have been more enjoyable if the characters were more appealing.