Rosanna’s Autumn Book Reviews

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This novel has been the subject of much praise and discussion, particularly with regard to its plot twist(s) which apparently led to Judy Finnigan’s comment about it having one of the best twists she has ever read. Hence the book’s meteoric rise up the book charts. But it should be there anyway – it’s a great and gripping read, compelling from first to last. If I had to quibble I would say that I preferred the ‘Jenna in Wales’ story to the police procedural. But having said that, the characters of Ray and Kate provided an effective counterpoint to the main plot with stories which were also relevant and interesting if slightly predictable. Jenna however comprised much more fascinating shades of grey. At times I wanted her to fight back and be stronger, but it was easy to see how she had lost sight of her strength – this was very convincing. Clare Mackintosh tackles this thought provoking subject with sensitivity and perception.  I also loved the characters Jenna meets in Wales – Bethan, Patrick and Iestyn. A good mixture! I don’t want to give away any spoilers about this psychological thriller, so I will just say that if you like a compelling plot with lots of unpredictable twists and turns, then this is for you. It’s a five star read.

The Lie by CL Taylor

Another slice of domestic noir… I love this genre. The Lie is about a woman who is not who she says she is. Five years ago she changed her identity and this gives CL Taylor her structure for the book. For me, it works well. The chapters switch between the main character’s horrifying experiences while on holiday in Nepal with three girlfriends and what is happening in the present day. Both timeframes are compelling because it seems the past has returned to haunt the present and it is time for Emma/ Jane to solve the past mystery. The story is told in first person narrative from her point of view and she seems likeable – it is rather confusing then when her friends begin to treat her so badly…

That aside, the plot is believable and Emma’s not knowing who she can trust is one of the aspects that give the storyline so much sense of menace. The cult they meet up with in Nepal is also very creepily believable and sinister. The Lie makes you think too about how far we can trust those whom we are close to. Another gripping read by CL Taylor. I will be looking out for her next book.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

I am a huge fan of Sarah Waters. I love her quietly compelling writing, her attention to detail, her gradual builds and the way she presents a slow but simmering passion. This book is set in 1920s London and as always, her research is both impeccable and unobtrusive. Frances Wray lives here with her mother; the pair are still grieving for Frances’s brothers killed in the Great War and are impoverished by Frances’s late father’s debts. Frances’s life appears unsettled and empty – following her one past romantic loss, she has become resigned to the life she leads. And so the stage is set for the entrance of a couple from another social world, lodgers no less, from a ‘lower class’, Lillian and Leonard Barber who bring a certain modernity into the genteel household and who prove to unsettle Frances still further, although in different ways. My only criticism of this atmospheric and beautifully written book is that the story sags slightly in places and feels a touch repetitive. It seemed a little too long and the ending too drawn out. But it feels harsh to criticise such a brilliant author. It’s not Fingersmith, but it’s still a fabulous read.

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and it impressed me with its clever construction, fresh use of language and fast pace. From the onset, it delivers drama – we are introduced to Jackson, who is in love with his wife but who nevertheless disappears early one morning whilst fishing on a wild Dorset coastline. The author then uses the primary narrative voice (of his wife Eva) to explore the story of their relationship and also of his past as Eva goes to Tasmania to meet Jackson’s family and friends in her quest to find out more. Here, I loved the descriptions of landscape and especially Eva’s discovery of the free dive experience which felt very authentic and liberating and helped balance some of the (albeit necessary) dark emotions on the page. To say more about the plot would be to give too much away, but the story fizzes with drama and it is confidently told. And the ending – thankfully – does not disappoint. A neatly structured and compelling read.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

As always, Louise Candlish’s writing has good pace and balance and her characters are strong and uncompromising. She draws the reader into the story with consummate ease. In this novel, she uses two female narrators. Amber Fraser was, this narrator admits from the start a ‘wild child’ with rough beginnings but she has since married well (the ‘silver fox’ Jeremy, older than Amber, self-confident and successful) and tried to leave her past life behind her. The couple move into a ‘perfect’ suburban house and Amber proceeds to charm the neighbours. But for some reason they leave this ‘forever’ house a short time later and disappear. Why? As we read on, we gradually discover the answer. The second narrator, Christy, is the woman who (with her husband Joe) buys the house they cannot afford at a ridiculously low price because the Frasers do not want it anymore. They try to fit in with a neighbourhood still smarting over the mysterious events surrounding the sudden departure of the Frasers. Made redundant, Christy makes it her business to find out what really happened, but in the process, hers and Joe’s lives become affected by turmoil of their own. It was hard to put this book down. Neither of the female characters were particularly likeable and Christy’s story felt slightly unfinished, but the novel remained a fascinating read. Louise Candlish is excellent at exploring psychological drama as she allows the story to gradually unfold – and her characterisation is spot on. Thoroughly engaging.


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