Now I’m going to be honest, I received this book unsolicited and on reading the synopsis wasn’t really sure that I wanted to read about a woman in constant pain. That might sound harsh but I don’t think I’m alone in avoiding books about unsolvable problems, especially not ones which I’d rather not contemplate. In the interest of fairness, I picked up the book to read the first few pages…
Monica Wood is awake in the spare room with her ‘angry friend’, the constant pain she suffers, when she finds a suicide note, written by herself some four years previously. She has no memory of the note or the events leading up to it because the medication she takes to control the pain have wiped parts of her memory, what is left is often completely out of her grasp. In the morning she shows the note to her devoted husband Dominic who agrees that she wrote it, and then on her bidding throws it away.
Still unsure I read a little further and reading the oh so accurate sounding descriptions not only of the pain, but the effect it has on Monica’s life had me hooked, well that and wanting to know what the accident was that had caused the pain in the first place and the mystery around the suicide note.
N.J. Fountain has created a world where it is impossible to grasp exactly what has happened due to Monica’s pain but nevertheless this is a world I wanted to understand. There is a deep sense of foreboding from that first page and it is that feeling that had me sucked deeper into this woman’s world. Monica hadn’t always been in pain, five years previously she had been an agent for actors and the grit and determination that got her there, shine through from time to time. This stops the book being as utterly depressing as I had feared when I was contemplating putting it to one side.
With the book being focussed, as is Monica, on pain it is unsurprising that there are doctors to meet, one of my favourite scenes is where Monica summed up their attitude, with their unrelenting positivity and the feeling that the patient should not spoil their act, so become some sort of stand-up act to keep the dialogue moving. I’ve sat in that very position at times, and have wondered what came over me.
The short chapters, living with Monica as she discovers new things about herself, as she grapples over the scene of her accident and watching her interactions with her best friend Angelina, her osteopath Niall and her husband Dominic we get to build a picture up of both the woman she once was, and the one she is now – where the two versions of Monica meet is part of the puzzle.
This is one of those books that begs to be read in as few possible sittings as possible as befits a certain type of psychological fiction. This has the dual effect of immersing you in a different world, one that is full of suspicion, apprehension and unpredictable events and letting yourself roll with the story, and what a story it is! The plot is convoluted full of misdirection and red herrings, just the way I like my psychological thrillers and while the ending isn’t totally unbelievable, it did take a small hop of faith to go with it. That said, I didn’t see it coming and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the dexterity of pulling everything that had gone before, together.
I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown UK for sending me a copy of Painkiler, this review is my thank you to them. If you enjoyed Before I Go To Sleep, I think you’ll enjoy this book, the same feeling of intrigue and dread pervaded both books.