I was extremely excited this month when this book arrived through in the post. I had requested a copy to review mainly because of the tagline which is on the cover: ‘She can’t remember why she’s afraid of her husband’. It’s intriguing, right? The cover design was also quite striking, with the separated wedding rings hinting at a divide in a relationship, but it was really those words on the cover which drew me in. The book itself is described as a psychological drama, a genre I very much enjoy when executed well. Additionally, the press release information which came with the book details how it has already been optioned for TV by a prominent Hollywood actress. All in all, big accomplishments for a debut novel!
Written by Amanda Reynolds, this book centres upon the character of Jo. After a nasty fall down the stairs leaves her with no memories of the last twelve months of her life, she faces the massive struggle of trying to piece together fragmented memories, attempting to discover the truth behind the lies. Although her memories are mostly gone, she has been left with one feeling; being scared of her husband. As she tries to fill in the blanks, Jo begins to realise that she may not have been as good a wife or mother as she thought. Worse still, there are people who are determined to keep the past in the dark, the lead up to her fall forever kept a secret.
My favourite thing about this novel was the use of the unreliable narrator. Although we follow Jo as she tries to recover her life, experiencing everything she does, can we really trust her? After all, she does not know herself what her actions were in the past or how she has previously behaved. We have only her skewered view of the present. After the fall, Jo is plagued by a feeling of fear towards her husband, a seed of mistrust threatening to take root. Because of her feelings, we as the reader automatically find ourselves becoming distrustful of Rob, seeing the possibilities of lies and deceit within all of his actions. Yet, we have no real reason for so marked a distrust. Our feelings are entirely coloured by those of Jo and the uncertainty she feels because of her amnesia. We only see through her limited viewpoint, and as such we have a very biased reading experience because of Jo’s unreliability. I thought this was executed quite well and it is something I love to explore within a book, one of the most accomplished examples of this kind of narration I have read being Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project.
The novel also follows a non-linear timeline which is split into two separate parts, divided by this violent fall. We have scenes from before the accident and the months leading up to it, and then we have the days immediately after the fall, with Jo attempting to recover her memories. I can see why the author chose to use this technique, as it helps to keep some suspense within the book, and by the reader existing in both alternating temporal spaces, the time Jo has lost begins to fill itself in quite naturally. Like Jo, we are trying to reclaim her memories.
Sadly, my biggest issue with the big was that I did not feel at all attached or connected to the characters. To put it quite bluntly, I did not really care what happened to Jo or her family. Throughout the reading experience I felt more like I was being told how to feel rather than actually experiencing it through the characters themselves; as if I was being told what was happening in her life rather than experiencing it through the skill of the novel. The characters felt two dimensional and quite generic, and I felt as if I could put the book down and never actually wonder what had really happened.
I also have to say that unfortunately the ideas surrounding this book seemed very generic as well, especially the twists which I personally found reminiscent to those within Paula Hawkins’s The Girl On The Train. I did not feel like I was reading anything highly original or thrilling as a reader, and I actually guessed the plot twists about a third of the way in. I think the best part of this novel for me was actually the last few pages where the events culminate together. These pages seemed to hold the most emotion and realness, with moments which were truly saddening to read. Although the novel as a whole is the study of a breakdown of a marriage, of a mother losing her identity as her kids mature and leave home, it was these end pages which seemed much more poignant overall.
Whilst I do not think that Amanda Reynolds is a bad writer, there was nothing within this novel which took me by surprise or blew me away. I did not find her writing to be exceptional, and there were no really gripping bits of prose, be that in speech or description. I think it was just simply quite average. Without a doubt though, this is an extremely quick and easy read, and I think this would be a well suited holiday read for many people. It contains similar themes to those within both Gone Girl and especially The Girl On the Train, so perhaps if you enjoyed those I would recommend this, although I did find those two books to be somewhat more thrilling and accomplished.
Has anyone else gotten around to reading this yet? What were our thoughts?
Disclaimer – I was very kindly sent this book in exchange for a review. I will only ever post my own, honest opinions and will NOT write a favourable review in exchange for a complimentary book.