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.