The Girl Before You

downloadAuthor : Nicola Raynor

Pub . Date : 22 Aug , 2019

Publisher : HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Plot summary :

Alice catches a glimpse of a red-haired girl on a train who has a startling resemblance to one of the exes of her politician-turned-TV-presenter husband George Bell . This ex – Ruth Walker , had disappeared following the University’s memorial ball . It was widely believed at that time that she could have drowned as her dressed had been found washed up on the South Beach .

But , the recent sightings of the red-haired girl and the surfacing of some college memories makes Alice doubt if George knows more about what happened to Ruth Walker all those years ago .

My thoughts about the book

The book title is very similar to the debut of J P Delaney . The narrative straddles two timelines , past and present and the stories of three people :  Alice – George’s wife , Naomi – Ruth’s sister and Kat – Ruth’s frenemy from the college days . Rayner’s writing was engaging despite covering the regular subjects of a mystery-from-the-college-days type story-line – flashbacks into the college lives of the central characters .

The college days run into too great detail in the trio’s flashbacks and it almost always covers the following territories – shagging , pub visits & more shagging . I distinctly remember that they were only two places in the entire book where the author touched upon Kat’s visit to the library and Kat taking up her exams . Of course , academic stuff would not have even minimal engagement quotient with the readers but Rayner’s writing made it look like there’s more wine , parties & shagging than academics in universities . Whatever academic references are thrown in , I guess , they are there to make it seem like an ” all-rounded ” coverage of the life with the campus . Maybe , cutting off a chunk of the party-scenes and references to yet another shag episode between two people could have made this book a pacier read .

My only peeve  was that the editor should have pared out a good 70 pages worth of content to actually pack a stronger punch with the really good ending .  The reader has to navigate the torrent of this distracting stuff to get to the ‘ THE ENDING WHICH WILL LEAVE YOU GASPING ‘ – so the Observer critic says . Yes , the ending was really very good and you would have never guessed it . But , probably , navigating a torrent of distracting stuff did it for me – I did not get shocked / gasp but I am quite satisfied with how the pieces of the puzzle finally fell in place .

There was one particular instance where the credibility quotient takes a serious dip ( atleast for me ) –  Can anyone imagine two heavily pregnant women wandering the streets of a small University town , ” looking ” for a woman , they are not sure if she actually exists ? Even , if they are convinced there is such a lady , is there not a possibility that she might have relocated / died ? Why would they not leave the hunt to the police ?  Maybe it’s only my imagination that refuses to stretch itself .

Despite a not-so-great editing , some instances which require the reader to stretch their imaginations ( strictly my take ) , it is still a great suspense read with a riveting plot-line and a great finishing , if you choose to overlook the above mentioned points .  Maybe , sometimes , you should leave too-much-lookout-for-logic by the wayside ,  to enjoy a book .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

My thanks to the publisher for the e – ARC in exchange for an honest review . You can checkout the review for J P Delaney’s debut here . Until the next review then .

Everything Under – Book review

downloadI have finished Everything Under by Daisy Johnson which I recently managed to check out at a second hand book-store at an insanely low price because the lady at the store did not see the Shortlisted The Man Booker Prize 2018 logo emblazoned in the cover . You ‘ ll never know when you will hit the jackpot with book-shopping in second hand book shops . So , onto the book review without any further detours –

Plot summary :

Gretel is a lexicographer who has always been fascinated with words .  During her early childhood , she and her mother , Sarah , lived on a canal boat and words like sheesh time , harpiedoodle , effing were once part of her vocabulary . She didn’t realize her mother had given her a set of words which she had made up herself and nobody else ( except for themselves ) was using them . Sarah had abandoned her when she was sixteen after which she was in and out of different foster homes until she was old enough to leave .

Now , sixteen years later , she is reunited with Sarah and there are several questions , about the past , which are egging her to revisit her foggy memories of the days in the canal boat .  There is : Marcus who came to stay with them the last winter on the boat ,  their private language , the Bonak , the canal – thief . In the end , Gretel has no choice but to revisit those memories .

My thoughts on the book :

This modern day retelling of the Oedipus myth is set in the fen-land landscape .  Sarah is the fen-land Jocasta and ‘ Marcus ‘ ( who turns out to be Margot in disguise ) is the fen-land Oedipus . Now , why do I stress on the landscape ? Simply because , the river landscape peopled with canal-boats ‘ inhabitants and the people in the houses near the river with their lifestyle quite different from regular people , lends the narrative a flavor of its own .

The narrative switches between Gretel’s hunt for her mother , the present and Marcus ‘ story ( in which Gretel tries to imaginatively piece together how Marcus might have turned up on their boat after running away from home ) with only the chapters titled as The Hunt , The Cottage and the River for help with the timeline . The author has trusted the reader to figure out the narrative style & voices without jumping in to help by way of timestamps and stuff like that – I appreciate it very much . ( There have been few books where the author stepped in with narrator’s names / timeline and the plot became too predictable halfway through the book . )

The fact that Johnson has come up with her own words for the mother-daughter duo’s private language is simply mind-blowing . The writing  leans slightly towards hysterical realism , in that , her vignettes convey enough to capture the moment with the important  little details without being too elaborative . The mild hysterical realism  ( what an oxymoron !! ) serves to keep the narrative crisp .  Here is a sample –

The rental car was red and the hospital seemed to be mostly a long corridor . I walked past entrances to the gynecology , respiratory health , private . It smelled of soup warmed up in the staff microwave , burned toast , bleach . [..] “

There are a few passages which I relished , few which I reflected on – in all , the language of this book is at times beautiful / interesting and very engaging  .

” The places we are born come back to us . They disguise themselves as words , memory loss , nightmares . [..] “

” [..] the past did not die just because we wanted it to . The past signed to us : clicks and cracks in the night , misspelled words , the jargon of adverts , the bodies that attracted us or did not , the sounds that reminded us of this and that . The past was not a thread trailing behind us but an anchor . [..]”

” [..] if all our choices are remnants of all the choices we made before . As if decisions were shards from the bombs of our previous actions . “

Rating : 5 / 5

I would definitely urge you to pick up this book if you have not picked it up yet – the rating should say it all .

The Mother – in – Law – Book review

download (1)  I chanced upon The Mother-in-law by Sally Hepworth as one of the must-read beach reads of  2019 . The title flipped some switch inside my head and I remembered that I had it on my Kindle . I had got it from Net Galley . But after reading books with hackneyed plots ( like about an impostor nanny with Munchhausen syndrome who is also a writer ) , I was wary about  trying out any Net-galley offering . But , thankfully , it turned out to be a pretty  satisfying read .

Plot summary :

A staunch advocate for women refugees , a prominent member of the community hailing from one of the wealthiest families & not to forget the lady’s elegance , Lucy had been properly intimidated by Diana Goodwin – her prospective mother-in-law during their first meeting . When Lucy did get married to Diana’s son eventually , she looked forward to gelling with her better and reverse Diana’s opinion of her being only a fine girl . She wanted to impress Diana properly like Diana had impressed her .

Lucy tried , very hard , during the early days of her marriage , to win over Diana but eventually gave up . But , then , she didn’t know Diana back then . Diana had an innate reserve that nobody had quite managed to navigate past  – even her children . Diana would offer sympathy , solid advice or would simply listen but she would never extend financial support . It seems that things haven’t changed much in the Goodwin household even after all these years…..

And , now , Diana is dead . While her suicide note suggests that she had taken this step because of her cancer , the autopsy does not find any cancer . But it does find traces of poison in her system and signs of suffocation .

Now that the police are looking for motivations for Diana’s homicide , there seem to be several reasonable ones . And there are several questions too -Why was Diana’s will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad Diana’s gone ? Why would Diana lie about the cancer ?

Of course , there are interesting secrets and it seems everybody knows something about Diana’s death which they are not letting out…

My thoughts on the book :

The premise of ” after x’s death ” is not a new one but the choice of the MIL – DIL relationship as the focal point for the narrative of the family’s dynamics is new . Both are very engaging  & often witty and their voices are done well .  Through Diana’s and Lucy’s narratives , we come to understand their relationship in a way which they never would , because we get an uncensored view into their mind workings . The host of secondary characters have also come out well .

I have a few things which did not sit well with me though….

For one thing , there were too many sub-texts / afterthoughts within the parentheses ,  which I felt , cramped the free flow of the narrative . Another thing which I thought was very unnecessary is the time-stamping throughout the book . . The voices of both Diana and Lucy are very distinct and the reader can easily get to know who is speaking and of which time-frame the narrator is speaking about . I think the readers today have been exposed quite well to alternating time-frame narrations and multiple POVs that they don’t require much help from the author by way of PAST and PRESENT time stamps along with the narrator’s name at the start of every chapter .

I want to ask the writer just one thing – Why don’t you trust the readers to work out these little things by themselves ? If the voices of your characters are distinct , then you don’t have anything to worry about ( Sally H can be happy as her characters ‘ voices  are really done well . She just needs to have some faith in her readers and herself ) .

The big reveal , though , was a bit underwhelming . Perhaps , not putting up his / her name as the narrator at the top of the page would have been better . It was not difficult to put together the circumstances and the name at the top of the page but the ” twist ” was not very convincing .

On the whole , Sally H. kept me turning the pages until the not-so-twisted end ( and for few above-mentioned hiccups ) and for that , I have to thank her .  It would not do to forget the publisher , St . Martin’s press  here – A big thank you to whoever approved the e – ARC on time .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter : Kim Edwards

Norah Henry , Dr David Henry’s wife remarks  “Our world will never be the same.” before they start to the hospital for Norah’s first delivery during a blizzard . Little did she or Henry think about how much weight those words carry : Norah delivers twins unprecedentedly – a boy and a girl . While the boy is a healthy infant , the girl has Down’s syndrome . David secretly entrusts the baby to the care of a nurse while informing Norah that the child has died during birth .  Norah would not come to know about her daughter’s existence until 25 years later – but the secret which had weighed down David like ” a stone around his neck ” as he himself puts it has torn the family apart .

Book Review: I’ve Got My Eyes On You

Kelly Dowling is found dead in the swimming pool in her house . She had hosted a party the previous night for her classmates before they all left for their respective colleges when her parents were away from home . The guests included Kerry’s Harvard-bound boyfriend Alan Crowley , with whom she had a serious fallout during the evening .  Jamie Chapman , Kerry’s next door neighbor was also angry that Kerry had not invited him to her party . Or is there somebody else? Aline , Kerry’s elder sister pitches in to help the police bring the sister’s murderer to justice – She just doesn’t know that Kerry’s killer is ready to kill a second time to save himself .

The Reunion – A review

Claire’s father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mother is finding it increasingly difficult to run the family farm while taking care of her father . While her mother is seriously considering putting up the place for sale , Claire decides to have a reunion with her gang at the farm one last time.  She has a firm belief that revisiting old memories would slowdown the progress of the disease for her father .

But she couldn’t have foreseen that her family and friends would be forced to relive the nightmarish days following the disappearance of  her sister Eleanor – this time it’s her friend’s teenaged daughter . Claire couldn’t miss out the jarring similarities between both the disappearances….

BELIEVE ME -A review

When Stella Fogler is  found murdered in her hotel suite ,  Claire Wright comes under police radar as she was one of the two people who last saw Stella alive .  As we all know , when a married woman is found murdered , its always the husband who becomes  the de facto suspect in the investigation and Patrick Fogler is no different . Patrick is incidentally the only husband who had rebuffed her advances when Claire  has put up her easy pick-up act . When a forensic profiler comes up with what she believes substantial evidence against Patrick Folgate ,  in not one ,  but several gruesome murders , Claire is asked by the police to entice Patrick into revealing his darker side ( is there one first ?? ) .
As Claire begins to forge an intimate relationship with Patrick  and the more she gets to know him , she begins to doubt the police theory and eventually the police force itself . How could such a faithful husband (despite his wife ‘ s doubts ) be a cold – blooded killer? Is there more to this whole ” operation ” as the forensic profiler terms it than what she has been told??
Does she know the actual picture ?

Or

The real Patrick ?