Anna left Oxford University in the early nineties, cutting off all ties with her fellow students but why? Alison Mercer does a fantastic job right from the first page in drawing us into Anna’s world both now and in the past.
When we first meet Anna she is thrilled to be leaving home, she has outgrown her mother, her step-father Gareth and step-sister Tippy (nick-named because as a little child she kept tipping things over) and is eager to start a new life reading English at the famous university.
Moving in she soon meets up with some of the friends that she will be closest to through her years in Oxford but the underlying question is always, why did it all fall apart? The story is told alternating between the events in the present spliced with those that happened during her years as a student.
Alison Mercer has created a wide variety of characters from the beautiful confident Clarissa to the withdrawn Keith, from the earnest Meg to the brash bold Barnaby and of course Victor, someone we know was important in Anna’s life because bumping into him launches this very clever tale of betrayal. The author also manages to keep Anna’s character consistent through both timelines, although it is clear that whatever happened has changed her outlook, the core values are still there.
The setting was beautiful, I could easily imagine the fictional St Bart’s, the rooms, the courtyards and the pictures taken to commemorate an evening of intense conversation, which leads neatly onto a second point; the nineties were accurately portrayed including the emerging technologies such as email although the phone box was still the preferred method of keeping in touch with loved ones.
I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to and the characters walked out of the pages and into my life. With the snippets from the past giving hints to not only the main betrayal but also from some other secrets that had hindered Anna through her life since leaving Oxford, I began to join the dots and gratifyingly I was spot on in one aspect but wide of the mark in others. A brilliantly executed finale wrapped up this accomplished novel.
This is Alison Mercer’s second novel, her first Stop The Clock is now on my TBR, and reading her biography it is easy to see why the Oxford she describes is so believable, she attended Oxford and read English.
If you want a well-written novel, with secrets, lies along with realistic characters, you might well enjoy this book.
I received my copy ahead of the paperback publication of 31 July 2014 from the publishers Random House, in return for this honest review.