Posted in Books I have read

As Good As Dead – Elizabeth Evans

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Firstly this book appears to be marketed as a psychological thriller which revolves around an event twenty years in the past, this isn’t a good reflection of the book as the drama that is associated with this type of read is more or less entirely missing. What the reader does get is a look at the lives of two women who were undoubtedly set on a path by the crucial event. It is a look at friendship, loyalty and perhaps more subtly responsibility.

Charlotte is shy and comes from a non-literary background when enrols at the Iowa Writing Workshop when she meets Esmé, the woman who is to become her best friend. The two girls end up sharing a room while Charlotte waits for her boyfriend to join her on his return from Italy. Meanwhile, despite claiming to be shy and describing Charlotte as her best friend ever the friendship appears to be balanced in her favour from the very start. The author really does illustrate the realities of a competitive relationship between two young women.

The mystery is opened up by Esmé suddenly appearing on Charlotte’s doorstep twenty years after they parted company, an act which seems to be all the more bewildering because Charlotte had attempted to contact her previously and received no response. Why Esmé has reappeared is explored in flashbacks to the past and filled in with details of Charlotte’s literary success in the present. I felt that the lives the two girls led in the past was accurately portrayed, in particular Charlotte’s insecurity without ever labouring the point; my favourite kind of writing.

Indeed I loved the writing style, the slow understanding of the relationship between the girls, and later on their partners, which are typified by the least edifying of human characteristics, jealousy, envy and selfishness. None of these characters are ones who I’d fancy spending a great deal of time with, but this is barely recognised let alone confronted by those involved who for the main part are trying to keep a secret or expose one. The writing style is totally engaging and I was quickly drawn into the story but I would categorise this as literary fiction rather than boldly stating ‘As Good As Dead performs an exquisitely tuned psychological high-wire act’! The reality is one where instead of action, quiet contemplation is required by the reader to consider what happens when you can no longer trust those who you believe care about you.

Charlotte in particular seems to have deferred every major decision in her life to her husband whilst managing to hold down a successful literary career in a competitive world which brilliantly illustrates the seemingly competing sides of our personalities which is exactly what makes her feel so human to the reader. I might not have particularly warmed to her character but I felt I understood what made her tick. Esmé on the other hand wanted the easy route through life, she wants to have the literary career, the sought-after boyfriend, friends and family and turns to manipulation to get what she wants.

I’m not sure there is the substance or thrills included in this book based on the title or marketing that will satisfy the readers if that is what they are looking for, but I did enjoy this exploration of friendship and what happens when the bomb of betrayal is let off in its centre!

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing for allowing me to read a copy of As Good As Dead, prior to the publication date of 19 November 2015 in return for my honest opinion.

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

22 thoughts on “As Good As Dead – Elizabeth Evans

  1. This sounds like a good read but it’s a shame when books are marketed as something they’re not as it only ever leads to a level of disappointment with a book that you might’ve loved had it been marketed correctly.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Cleo, despite it’s being marketed as a different sort of book. Sometimes those slowly-unfolding books can be really well-written and fascinating, so I can see why you were engaged in the story. I do wish the blurb was more accurate though.

    1. I think it’s silly because there would be plenty of takers for this book but I fear people looking for lots of action will be sorely disappointed – as it is the slow unfolding of a tale works exceptionally well in this instance.

  3. It seems to be that a lot of books are being marketed as the next big psychological thriller when they contain an element of mystery. This sounds good though, particularly about the vagaries of friendship.

  4. I wondered what you would make of this! I couldn’t get past the way in which it was so different from the way it was marketed. I became annoyed by this difference and I saw it as unrealised potential on the part of the author but can recognise from your review that this could have just been a case of incorrect titling and marketing. It is a shame – us reviewers are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt but I think a lot of readers who are attracted to this book might just abandon it mid-way through, and that may just be the fault of the publishers.

    1. I absolutely agree, it is hard to read one type of book, when you expect another. I completely understand your points which I read after I had written my review – in truth as we are unsure of the intention of the author it gets down to our personal feelings.

  5. This is why I am so often disappointed after I read the blurb. They should be avoided really…but then how can you? I do like the sound of this though as I try to mix up my reading style…

  6. I think they must think psychological thrillers sell more copies, but I always feel that it probably affects the author’s future books too – a disappointed reader is unlikely to be tempted again, and a badly marketed book usually picks up quite a lot of negative reviews. One of my favourite books, Patrick Flanery’s Fallen Land, is most definitely lit-fic and yet was marketed as a psychological thriller, and there are loads of negative reviews from people saying this isn’t what I thought it was going to be, And his new book is being marketed the same way again…

    1. You are spot on! I liked the book but I couldn’t review it without pointing out that it isn’t what I was led to believe it would be – it took a while to get over the dis-joint and I can imagine that other readers may well have put it aside.

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