Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Still Me – Jojo Moyes

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

2019 whilst being a little poor on the actual reading front has been a great year in respect of the audio book having followed on from great success I had with this format especially with non-crime fiction genre.

Still Me is the last part in the trilogy written by the fabulously talented Jojo Moyes which started with Me Before You which I read as back in January 2013 where Lou Clark takes on a job being a nurse/companion to a quadriplegic man. This story was so popular, being later made into a film that Jojo Moyes bought Lou Clark back for more adventures. In After You we see her living a new life, meeting new people and coping with grief and her journey kept me company during my walks home from work and preparing food that I missed Lou Clarke so very much when this book finished and felt that the narrator Anna Acton now encapsulated the story for me so despite having a physical book it seemed obvious to continue in audio format.

In Still Me Lou Clarke has takes up a new job in New York through an old friend. New York is new and exciting and although Lou misses her boyfriend Sam in London, at times he seems very far away. With a whole new cast of characters in New York and this really is how Jojo Moyes captures the hearts of her readers – they are so well drawn, multi-layered and as far removed from clichés and stereotypes that lesser authors employ. There is no doubt in my mind when I was listening that Lou Clarke was a real woman, with problems not so very different to those that I have suffered, and despite being a fair bit younger than I am, it still manages to feel relevant as the cast of characters takes in the whole spectrum of people. We have the fussy old woman with her beloved dog, the unfriendly housekeeper, the spoilt rich wife, the personal trainer, the jock, the vintage clothes shop owner to name but a very few.

So although the characters are the chief pull of course even the most captivating of studies can’t stand up without a plot. Perhaps this novel has more of the general romance pitfalls than the previous two books, chiefly misunderstandings that are left to fester rather than spoken about on both sides, but despite this I was still swept along hoping for a good result for Lou whether that be a good man or no man at all. Pleasingly the latter is always a possibility especially as we also catch up with Lou’s brilliantly portrayed parents and sister as they come to terms with life not following the predictable route they thought it would. In fact Lou’s mother and her father’s reaction to life’s changes provided some of my favourite comedic moments in the book.

I finished Still Me quite some time ago but I won’t forget Lou Clarke in a hurry. It takes a special kind of skill to pen a story that has all the ranges of human emotions without it tipping into the sickly sweet arena and for someone like me who has an antipathy to ‘romantic’ tales that is high praise indeed!

First Published UK: 24 January 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
No of Pages: 496
Listening Length: 13 hours 37 minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, The Classic Club

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

Classic
4*s

The Classic Club Spin number 18 picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote for me which was one of the few novellas on my list – not exactly the chunkster the organisers had urged us to choose for the extra long time period allowed – but I was pleased since my last classic seemed to go on for an age!

Once it was picked I then decided to investigate a little more – you can read my full post here.

This is an intriguing novella that I can imagine packed quite a punch when it was first published in 1958.

Holly Golightly (what a fab name) is the object of our narrator’s fascination. He lives in an apartment above hers in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side where he writes. Holly is a country girl although her past is a bit of a mystery. She has no job she lives off others good favour including Sally Tomato, who she visits in prison, every week. For this service she gets paid $100. In between times she is treated well by the wealthy men and she assumes that sooner or later she will marry one of them.

Of course to the reader, Holly Golightly is not just a good time party girl. It is far more likely that she is an expensive sort of call-girl but one that I think that appeals to the female readers of the book as the fictional men who clearly like her.

In many ways the novel is a snapshot of a place and time. We have the bar owner who knows both Holly and our narrator, being conveniently situated as a bartender of nearby bar. But it is Holly who has the spotlight shone on her at all times. In many ways her background is a complete mystery, the only ‘fact’ seems to be is that her brother is called Fred, the name she ascribes to our narrator out of some sort of affection for him although she claims “I’m going to call you Fred. After my brother. He’s very stupid, too.”

The story told seems on the surface to be quite a simple one. It certainly isn’t long and yet there is something very captivating about it, both in terms of the characters and the writing style. Truman Capote is one of those writers whose work does not seem to have dated in so many ways. The style used is of the enquiring nature of the narrator that blends perfectly with not an urgent need but a more gentle yearning to understand this young woman more.

For me the key seemed to be in the past, I had the feeling if we could unwind far enough we would see the foundation to the creation that ‘our’ Holly clearly is. This meant almost back-to-front as usually we want to know where a character is going, but perhaps I knew ultimately where that would be and so I felt if we could go back first, maybe a slightly different path could be walked. Who knows? What I do know was that I was as charmed by this young woman in a way I simply did not expect to be. I felt sorry but wholly unsurprised as she was thoughtless and careless with others and equally sorry for our narrator and the barman who had this bright young thing in their orbit, and then they lost her.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is number 14 on The Classics Club list and the nineth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed. Yup, I’m a little bit behind!

First Published UK: 1958
Publisher: Random House
No of Pages: 160
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

To Catch a Killer – Emma Kavanagh

Crime Fiction
5*s

Emma Kavanagh manages to write crime fiction almost in the tone of someone who has experienced the very events herself. Perhaps this isn’t so surprising given her background as she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. In other words she knows how people behave in moments of peril!

To Catch a Killer opens in the middle of just such a moment, the kind of moment that I suspect I am alone in being able to thankfully say, I have not experienced in real life. Just as well because the book scared the bejeebers out of me! The memory of a day, one just like any other until the day DS Alice Parr answered a call on the radio to assist a paramedic save the life of a woman who had her throat cut. Warning, do not read this book if you are squeamish or eating your dinner, that feeling of being in the moment results in those heart-thumping moments you get viewing hospital dramas – you know it is fiction but even so…

Once the victim has been taken to hospital of course the police have to work out who the perpetrator of such a crime is and given that the attack took place in a London park, in the morning, how could they commit such a bloody crime in broad daylight with no one spotting what was going on?

So the reader has plenty to ponder and be warned although initially you may feel the pace is reasonable, it soon becomes quite fast and furious and given that the plot is complex, you need your wits about you. In other words this is a book to set aside some time to really get the best out of it. Fortunately to offset the blood and gore we have two female police officers who work well together, Polly’s somewhat less serious nature while not detracting from the crime does give the reader some smiles to lighten the load along the way.

We also get to visit another location, unusual in British crime fiction which normally tends to stay fairly close to home with a big deal being made if officers cross into the next county. In this book they have to get on an airplane to carry out some of the investigating which adds a whole different feel to the storyline.

The result of all this is an immensely satisfying crime fiction novel that really held my interest throughout and although I did manage to work out a tiny bit of the puzzle, the rest worked their magic and left me reeling at the outcome. This is the first in a trilogy that will feature Alice Parr a fact I was unaware of until I read the cliff hanger at the end which I have to confess isn’t my favourite way for a book to end as I suspect I will have to recap before the second book is published, but I will definitely be making sure I read a copy.

I therefore must say a huge thank you to Orion Publishing Group for allowing me to read a copy of To Catch a Killer prior to publication on 24 January 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Great Reads by Emma Kavanagh

Falling
Hidden
The Missing Hours
Killer on the Wall

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018, The Classic Club

The Shuttle – Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Classic
3*s

The Classic Club Spin number 18 picked The Shuttle by Frances Hodgeson Burnett for me which was one of my choices of children’s authors who had written books for adults too. Once it was picked I then decided to investigate a little more – you can read my full post here.

So I was a little concerned about the length of the book and with good reason given that I only finished the last page shortly before leaving for work this morning! But I was very impressed to find out that the garden at Great Maytham Hall near Rolvenden, Kent, as inspiration for the setting of this book, and The Secret Garden – more of that later.

Great Maytham Hall Garden by Stephen Nunnery

So what did I think of the book. Well although it was long at well over 500 pages most of the time the story flowed along although I have to confess there were times when the lengthy descriptions so common at this time wore me down but there were plenty of surprises, maybe not so much plot wise but I found the attitudes given the time that this was written in 1907 far more forward thinking than I expected.

The story opens in New York with Sir Nigel Anstruthers meeting the young and fairly insubstantial, in build and character, Rosalie Vanderpoel. Rosalie is an heiress of magnitude and Nigel Anstruthers was seeking just such a young woman to marry with the aim of using her wealth for the upkeep of Stornham Court. Nigel meets the parents, the younger sister Bettina and the couple soon tie the knot. As Sir and Lady Anstruthers they set sail for the UK and then by train to Kent where Stornham Court is far more dilapidated than Rosalie expected. But since by that time her husband has failed to keep his brutish nature under wraps she is already on edge. Meeting the dowager does nothing to improve her feelings and it soon becomes apparent that she is trapped.

Many years later her younger sister Betty comes to find her. In the intervening years the house has fallen into even more severe disrepair as all the money has been spent on Sir Anstruther’s own entertainment. Rosalie is in just as bad shape, having also fallen into disrepair, her one surviving son who has a deformity being the only meaning in her life. Betty is shocked but a strong-willed and ‘business-like’ young woman who takes the house and her sister in hand.

With echoes of what would become the healing nature of plants and flowers in the Secret Garden within this book as one of Betty’s first actions is to hire a Head Gardener to oversee the many younger men to bring the garden to life. There are walks round the garden, descriptions of various flowers and a sense that this beauty breathes life into her sister’s soul.

There is also the inevitable romance playing out alongside the younger sister’s careful plan to extricate her sister from her awful marriage. This is a very modern woman who while approaching life somewhat differently given the slightly less rigid American lifestyle to that expected in an English village must surely have spoken to the Edwardian women who read this book at the time of publication. That along with a cautionary tale to those in America not to be taken in by a title alone. There is much said about what constitutes a married woman’s property what separating would mean for a woman not only in terms of her standing in society but that she would lose custody of her child. I couldn’t help but wonder what those women who were living under just such a regime took from this story.

There are dramatic scenes before the climax of the book which definitely allude to the particular power a man has over a woman, even a strong and clever woman, which while not in any way explicit was quite unexpected.

So in conclusion this was a good choice as one of  my Classic Club reads as there was much to enjoy within these pages that include travelling salesmen, hop pickers and magic wands aplenty in the form of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money. I did mark it down by one star because it was a little bit of a slog in places but in all honestly I don’t think I’ll forget the many and varied characters I met during this read.

The Shuttle is number 46 on The Classics Club list and the seventh of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.

First Published UK: 1907
Publisher: Persephone Books
No of Pages: 536
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

31 Bond Street – Ellen Horan

Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

Last year I was seeking out books covering true crime either as a non-fiction read or those that have used a real crime as a starting point for a fictional novel. Well all the time I’d had this book sitting on my kindle, overlooked! Happily that has now been remedied and this sensational crime set in New York in 1857 has its place in my own spotlight.

Dr Harvey Burdell, a dentist was murdered at 31 Bond Street in the early hours of 31 January 1857, yes over 160 years ago, and yet there is still sufficient interest in the case for writers to hold the interest of their readers. The dentist was found with his throat slit and stab wounds, the fatal blow being one to his heart in his office. He was found later that morning by a servant who raised the alarm. The coroner’s office was called and the entire household were placed under house arrest with no access to legal representation. Before too long there was a forerunner for the role of the murderer and that was the beautiful Emma Cunningham, a widow who claimed the pair had married just two weeks previously but no-one knew because the union was to remain a secret until the spring. Hmm…

The coroner has a vested political interest in declaring the perpetrator and in our fictional tale a brave and principled defense lawyer Henry Clinton comes to Emma Cunningham’s aid. It may or may not surprise you to find with the law and politics having so much in common that the prosecutor at Emma Cunningham’s trial, Abraham Oakley Hall, became the Mayor of New York later on although he had his own political downfall to contend with too!

Ellen Horan plays completely fair with her fictionalised tale clearly indicating the characters who were ‘real’ and also interestingly those characters who played a key part in the trial and are not featured in her fictional account. I say interestingly because when I read up on the crime afterwards, there were some details and characters which seem to have added to the media frenzy which are omitted in the book. Perhaps those didn’t fit the narrative the author was trying to portray which doesn’t just consist of the household but the roots of the Civil War and slavery too. This is as much about the political landscape in New York as it is about this particular murder.

The trial of Emma Cunningham

What is or isn’t true is technically irrelevant when you accept that you are reading a fiction even if they do depict elements of real events, and I’m glad to confirm that the author had me captivated by Emma’s determination to make sure her life, and that of her children, continued as it had before she was widowed at such a young age especially as Dr Harvey Burdell wasn’t quite the upstanding gentleman you’d hope for in a man who probes around in other people’s mouths.

The reader gets an insight into her character by reading about the pair’s early meetings in the fashionable resort of Saratoga Springs and how Emma outwardly acted compared to her inner thoughts – she wanted the best marriage possible in part to ensure her eldest daughter also could make a good marriage and for that she needed a dowry – and so the book flicks backwards to enable us to see the Emma before she was accused of the heinous crime.

31 Bond Street is a great example of a story woven around a group of characters and I was totally absorbed by both Emma’s story and the less morally blurred one of her defense attorney, Henry Clinton. The author really bought the time and place to life with details such as clothing and decoration lending an authenticity to the scenes she created.

31 Bond Street is the seventh book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in March 2011 so I gain another third of a book token!


First Published UK: 4 May 2010
Publisher: Borough Press
No of Pages: 372
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
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Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

The Spider and the Fly – Claudia Rowe #20booksofsummer

Non-Fiction
4*s

This is an unusual blend of crime fiction and memoir which may be part of a current trend that is emerging as I note The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich employs the same mix. We meet the author Claudia who, with almost a sense of shame, initially sets out to write a journalistic piece on the serial killer, Kendall Francoise, who murdered eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York and kept their bodies in his parent’s loft.

At first determined to keep her boundaries fixed she writes using a post office box as an address and asks some questions of her killer – but Kendall isn’t so keen to share and the correspondence is as much a game of cat and mouse as the spider and the fly. It turns out that Kendall wants to hear Claudia’s secrets as much as she wants to know his

“Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter. . . . You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?”— Kendall Francois

The conversation via letters lasted for four years while Kendall was incarcerated before his life sentence was passed in 2000. I’ll be honest that very little of what Claudia set to discover about Kendall or his family, who lived amongst the larvae casings dropping down into their somewhat grotty home, was realised. This isn’t a book to read if you want to hear the killer’s thoughts about his crimes, it is rather a character study of a man who is determined to be in control, and the latter probably goes in some way to explain why those eight women met their ends at his hands in the two short years from 1996 to 1998.

Claudia is an equal enigma as what she is trying to understand about herself is far more nebulous. She seems to be persistently concerned about her obsession with Kendall and wants to find the reason why. It isn’t overly clear from the book whether she makes peace with her younger self or not, but I hope so.

The style of writing had me fooled at times, it reads like a novel despite being non-fiction and although for much of the book, the truth remains elusive and the correspondence teases as if more of substance will be revealed if Claudia can ask just the right question, or maybe give just the right amount of herself to the killer to mull over while he sits in prison, I found it gripping. It is equally as tense as any novel, just as readable as many a psychological thriller, so much so I had to remind myself that this man committed a terrible crime and eight poor women lost their lives because of him.

What the book does show through its two different main characters and their families is that outward appearances can disguise something far darker and if you have lived in this dual world, as Claudia herself did, then trying to understand the darkness can become an obsession.

“He had no special knowledge or preternatural charm. He was what I’d made him.”

This is another worthy addition to my true crime shelf and was the eleventh read for my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 24 January 2017
Publisher: Dey Street Books
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Little Deaths – Emma Flint

Crime Fiction
5*s

Little Deaths is inspired by the true story of Alice Crimmins who was tried for the murder of her two young children in Queens, New York in 1965, and oh my, what a compelling story this is!

We are introduced to the mother, now Ruth Malone, who lives in an apartment in Queens whose two children Frankie and Cindy went missing from their bedroom. With little Cindy found strangled in a nearby parking lot a day later, Frankie remained missing for a further ten days, and then he too was found murdered. Despite the horrible crime as the book unfolds we see that Ruth was tried, not as much on hard evidence but because the former cocktail waitress did not behave as the public expects a bereaved mother to act.

I was instantly drawn into the tale, the world that Ruth lived in is one that is relatively easy to sympathise with. Her life hadn’t turned out as she expected, her dreams stunted by the birth of her two children and then she separated from her husband Frank. At the time the children went missing the two were locked in a custody battle with Ruth determined not to relinquish her children but at the same time nor was she going to live like a nun.  Contrary to the working class values that was Queens at that time, her neighbours disapproved of her association with a number of other men,added to which she cared about her appearance, drank and smoked. The hard truth is that Ruth wanted more from her life but did that mean she was the one who killed the children?  The countless crimes against Ruth mount throughout the book as the police, certain of her guilt, have her under almost constant surveillance so when she buys a new dress soon after Cindy’s body was found, her guilt was almost confirmed.

Emma Flint has provided us with one of the most complex of female characters and each incident can be viewed from differing angles and the conclusions made will depend on which angle you consider to be most realistic. This creation really takes the book way beyond a simple rehash of the crime itself. I felt I knew Ruth, I could both identify with some of her thoughts whilst at other times wonder why she made life quite so hard for herself, after all she was far from stupid – perhaps that was her downfall?

In the mix of characters we have Ruth’s mother, her ex Frank, a couple of male friends, the police and the crime reporter determined to make a name for himself, Pete Wonicke, whose obsession with the case added a whole other layer of interest to the story. On the sidelines are the former babysitter and other neighbours all who are pertinent, maybe not to the main mystery but in building the picture of the time and place. The atmosphere of this book was really spot on for both and part of what I loved so much was the feeling of being transported to a different world. The third person narrative was entirely appropriate for the book which is an exploration of values of the time as much as a murder mystery.

I know it is a cliché but once I started this book I simply couldn’t put it down, and as a result of how wrapped up in Ruth’s story I became, have spent my time since with an obsession with Alice Crimmins. From my research I can confirm that the author has clearly done hers although I’m sure the book had far more impact because I read it before learning about the case that inspired it.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book from the publishers Picador and this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 12 January 2017
Publisher: Picador
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Pariah – David Jackson

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

NYPD detective Callum Doyle is the star of this book set in, yes you guessed it New York! He’s in a bit of a pickle though as the other detectives are already worried about working with him following the death of his partner in the corner of a car park complete with a hooker… but it only gets worse.

This fast-paced thriller puts us in the shoes of a man who is forced to cut himself off from those closest to him when their lives appear to be in danger just by being associated with him. Unable to go to work and investigate the murder of his partner he decides to go it alone and try to track down the killer not an easy task when everyone he talks to is in danger. Who is watching Callum Doyle and what do they want from him?

With tension oozing off every page I read this with my heart in my mouth. How could the killer be found when those Callum turns to are either threatened or die a terrible death? This book is not for the faint-hearted, there is a fair amount of violence as the killer goes on the rampage, seemingly unstoppable. Fortunately Callum’s well-timed humour, just stopped this book from becoming too grim for words and he seems a genuine kind of guy although understandably confused by the situation he has found himself in. In many ways I think we learnt a lot about the man behind the badge as much from his interactions in his personal life, as those in what seems like a team with issues! I certainly don’t think this book would have worked so well without the many facets of the man’s character.
There are a wealth of other intriguing characters with as many great ones from the edges of society as well as his colleagues from the NYPD. As Callum becomes increasingly desperate he walks into lion’s dens of varying descriptions as he tracks pimps and heavies to try to find out who is behind the explosion of violence so close to home.

Although the plot itself isn’t complicated, and is told in a straightforward linear time-frame, it is well-structured and underpinned by some terrific action. If you like fast and furious then Pariah is probably a book you’d enjoy. The clues to the killer’s identity are released at a good rate although that didn’t have me any closer to guessing who was behind the mayhem until pages before the final reveal.

The writing style is confident, especially for a debut novel, and I was drawn into the storyline immediately and this is despite the fact that crime fiction involving gangsters isn’t high on my list of reading favourites. The interplay between the characters was pitch-perfect and didn’t rely on endless clichés, something that is tough to pull-off when there is danger around every corner as far as Callum is concerned.

This is also a book with a backstory, which doesn’t really fully come out in this book, so I’m going to have to keep reading the other books in the series to find out more! This really is a talented start to a new crime fiction series.

First Published UK: 20 August 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
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Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read

Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Kate Baron is a successful litigation lawyer and single mother to Amelia. Despite her hectic life Kate has made a success of their small family with time put aside to concentrate on Amelia to make up for the hours spent working late. Amelia used to have the company of her nanny who had looked after her since she was a small child but at fifteen Kate was persuaded by Amelia who argued she was too old.

One day Kate gets a call from Amelia’s school while she is in one of the most important meetings of her career, Amelia has been suspended, the matter to be discussed in person with the Headmaster. Later that day Amelia is found dead; soon classified as suicide but then Kate gets a text that claims that her daughter’s death wasn’t suicide at all. Kate sets about what really happened to Amelia and the texts, emails and social media pages, including a blog will make the most hardened adult wince.

This book quickly drew me in to the heart of the tale which is Kate’s belief that she knew her daughter but as soon as she starts investigating, she finds out that Amelia had secrets, lots and not just from Kate but from her best friend too. Female teenage friendships are complicated at the best of times but in the progressive American High School that Amelia attended there were also secret societies complete with initiation tasks and a complete stink, rather than a mere whiff, of bullying about them. Could membership, or not, really be behind the loss of life, of all that potential?

As the gap between mother and daughter is laid bare, the tension mounts as Kate is determined to uncover the truth and it would seem that there is more than one person who is determined to obfuscate what really happened that day. And the author manages that tension superbly with only too realistic text exchanges between Amelia and Ben, a friend from out of town, revealing one version of events whilst an anonymous blog is busy revealing the secrets of many of the pupils to all and sundry telling a slightly different one. We also get Amelia’s perspective of her life in the lead up to the fateful day as well as Kate’s in the present, and in the past – be warned, keep your eye on the dates that head up each narration to be sure where you are on the timeline!

This was a far more engaging read than I expected and there were plenty of secrets to discover but this is one of those reads where I think you have to go with the flow and not question some decisions and actions too closely, if you do you may find yourself wondering quite how likely some of the scenarios posed really are. This is a dramatic read, one that could make parents of teenage girls get into a spin and worry themselves stupid about the dangers of social media, but in many ways, although the book uses social media as a vehicle to illustrate Amelia’s life, at the heart of the book is a young girl’s loneliness and her need to be accepted by her peers, and that story definitely pre-dates facebook, mobile phones and emails. One thing is for sure Kimberly McCreight has created a haunting story which won’t be forgotten in a hurry!

First Published UK: 20 June 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
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Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read

You Should Have Known – Jean Hanff Korelitz #20booksofsummer

Book 11

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Grace Sachs, a marriage counsellor has written a book to warn women to pay attention to the clues the men they meet give them. She loftily imagines that this book will change the lives of those women who read her book, far more than the most popular book on the self-help shelf labelled relationships. Grace’s book isn’t about keeping a man, it is about not choosing the wrong one. Written during her spare time from her work, the book has been bidded upon and Grace is appearing in magazines and been invited for a TV interview when one week, she isn’t able to get hold of her husband, Jonathan, a renowned pediatric oncologist.

As readers we don’t hear from Jonathan himself, all that we know about him is filtered through Grace’s eyes, and we know, because we’ve been told that she is an excellent judge of character. She needs to be, it’s her job to get to the root of the problem and point out to the warring couples in front of her that he told you that he didn’t respect women, or he showed you that he drank too much so there isn’t much point complaining five years down the road. In short Grace is a little bit full of herself.

Grace is busy, not only does she have her practice, she has a twelve-year-old son Henry, who she mollycoddles, a book to promote and a school fund-raising committee for the best private school in New York. She also has her weekly visits to her father and step-mother Eve, a woman who she’s never taken to and she certainly doesn’t like Eve’s two grown-up children. Having fallen out with her best friend soon after her wedding Grace and Jonathan don’t have an awful lot of friends and so when one week she isn’t sure exactly where Jonathan is when she can’t get hold of him, she doesn’t have anyone to lean on.

The book is quite a wordy one, but one of those books where the description of rooms, clothes and people do matter, we are being immersed in Grace’s life which is at times uncomfortable, because she does have fixed ideas and we all know that she’s going to get her comeuppance for being quite so judgemental about others!

When one of Grace’s fundraising committee members dies the community goes into overdrive from the moment the headmaster sends the first email hinting at a tragedy. The section where we watch the news spread through the parents is so accurate, if the subject matter wasn’t so serious it would be funny. The book scores highly at taking a look at a certain ‘type’ of parent, well mother, and whilst not actually parodying them, it comes close – again only funny while you forget that there really are people like this walking the earth, and you may well have met a local variation of them, worse still, you may have actually had to have a conversation with them.

Although the tension builds at a steady pace, this is by no means a thriller in the conventional sense. This is a book about a woman coming to terms with the fact that she ‘made a mistake’ and the resultant shame that she experiences because of that particularly because she stuck her head above the parapet and proclaimed that she knew best! Funnily enough I had a lot of sympathy for Grace, whilst not liking her particularly.

This book kept me interested, there were enough things to wonder about as Grace retraced her steps, and the decisions she’d made, during her life and if the end was a little too neatly sewn up, well that’s ok, sometimes we do want the character’s to be ok following a trauma, we can accept that in real-life scars would linger but hey this is fiction!

Published UK: 6 March 2014
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
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