Towards the end of 2013 I learnt that Gillian White’s enthralling psychological thrillers had been republished. I had read some of these over a decade ago but I soon exhausted the library’s supply but have been on the lookout for second-hand copies ever since. In November I was fortunate enough to be given a copy of The Sleeper to review by the publishers Open Road Media and was relieved to find that the has stood the test of time. In celebration I bought a copy of Copycat: A Novel.
The opening chapter foretells the end by detailing a life-sentence for murder, the mystery of the book is what happened? How does a neighbourhood friendship degenerate to such a level?
On the day Martha Frazer moved into Mulberry Close, Jennie, her neighbour was captivated this heavily pregnant and full of life young woman. After all Jennie had been the first occupant of Mulberry Close, an aspirational group of executive lodges, close to what soon becomes a sink estate, has already assumed a territorial attitude. As the two women got on with their lives first as wives, and then as mothers, Martha with her large group of friends and laissez-fait attitude appears to be everything Jennie is not, but nevertheless the two women’s lives soon become intertwined.
Told in alternating chapters each picking up the narrative by using the last line of the previous chapter to start the next
‘And I think she never learned how to love.’
Although the words used are the same, the meaning behind them illustrates the completely different outlook on life that the two women have.
As the book isn’t told in chronological order, the reader will soon be in no doubt that Jennie’s early admiration for the laid-back Martha soon turned to jealousy and obsession, but then, Martha’s life isn’t the trouble-free existence that Jennie believes it is either. The tension is raised by the fact that everything described is only too believable, the children playing together whilst their mothers exchange confidences over a glass of wine. Petty childhood arguments diffused by fraught mothers while something dark bubbles beneath the surface. Shared holidays with other friends which only serve to highlight not only the difference between the parents but also their offspring, all the while Martha’s attitude fluctuates between sympathy and frustrations with her neighbour.
This review has my firm recommendation for any lover of psychological thrillers in a domestic setting. If you want to ponder, as I did, what would I do? Well this is the book for you. Without a doubt this is one of the darkest of any of the domestic dramas I have read.
This is one of Gillian White’s later novels, first published in 2002 and it is definitely one of my favourites.
Click on the book cover to read my review of The Sleeper by Gillian White