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Friday, April 20, 2018

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell | Book Review

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Disclaimer: Thanks to the kind folks at S&S for providing me an advance review copy.

Description: Ellie was the middle child and the apple of her mother’s eye. She was charming, smart, had just started dating, and was excited to finish up exams. But then 15-year-old Ellie disappeared on the way to the library. Normally I avoid these kinds of stories but this was a real page turner. Ellie’s mother Laurel retreats into herself. She goes into robot mode. It destroys her marriage and tests her children. The story is mostly told from Laurel’s point of view 10 years later. Laurel’s husband has remarried. Her adult children are finding their way in the world. And Laurel one day is charmed by a man in a coffee shop. He has a familiar feel but also creates that excitement of new love. The freaky thing is that his 9-year-old daughter Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie. How can that be? Who is this man?

I’m always flummoxed by these types of mysteries where the protagonist takes it upon themselves to investigate vs. going to the police. But I suspect that, if after 10 years the police have failed you, then you might figure things out on your own to a greater extent before involving them and losing the trail.

Perfect Read: If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train then this story has a similar fast-paced narrative with strong female characters and some emotional twists and turns. I also would compare it to I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers in that there’s a mystery component driving the plot but more so there’s a psychological component about what drives people to do things that are heinous while assuming some moral stance.

Favourite Moment: “The fact that Ellie had been wearing a black T-shirt and jeans had been a problem for the police. The fact that her lovely gold-streaked hair had been pulled back into a scruffy ponytail. The fact that her rucksack was navy blue. That her trainers were bog-standard supermarket trainers in white. It was almost as though she’d deliberately made herself invisible.” I like these passages that created suspense and made your assumptions falter. How audacious—the idea that Ellie has gone missing and that, counter to anything she’d done before, she may have purposely run away. This rattles Laurel for a long time.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell @Amazon.ca
Published by Atria, see it on SimonandSchuster.ca

Or visit https://www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial/, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell | Book Review

image

Disclaimer: Thanks to the kind folks at S&S for providing me an advance review copy.

Description: Ellie was the middle child and the apple of her mother’s eye. She was charming, smart, had just started dating, and was excited to finish up exams. But then 15-year-old Ellie disappeared on the way to the library. Normally I avoid these kinds of stories but this was a real page turner. Ellie’s mother Laurel retreats into herself. She goes into robot mode. It destroys her marriage and tests her children. The story is mostly told from Laurel’s point of view 10 years later. Laurel’s husband has remarried. Her adult children are finding their way in the world. And Laurel one day is charmed by a man in a coffee shop. He has a familiar feel but also creates that excitement of new love. The freaky thing is that his 9-year-old daughter Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie. How can that be? Who is this man?

I’m always flummoxed by these types of mysteries where the protagonist takes it upon themselves to investigate vs. going to the police. But I suspect that, if after 10 years the police have failed you, then you might figure things out on your own to a greater extent before involving them and losing the trail.

Perfect Read: If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train then this story has a similar fast-paced narrative with strong female characters and some emotional twists and turns. I also would compare it to I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers in that there’s a mystery component driving the plot but more so there’s a psychological component about what drives people to do things that are heinous while assuming some moral stance.

Favourite Moment: “The fact that Ellie had been wearing a black T-shirt and jeans had been a problem for the police. The fact that her lovely gold-streaked hair had been pulled back into a scruffy ponytail. The fact that her rucksack was navy blue. That her trainers were bog-standard supermarket trainers in white. It was almost as though she’d deliberately made herself invisible.” I like these passages that created suspense and made your assumptions falter. How audacious—the idea that Ellie has gone missing and that, counter to anything she’d done before, she may have purposely run away. This rattles Laurel for a long time.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell @Amazon.ca
Published by Atria, see it on SimonandSchuster.ca

Or visit https://www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial/, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent | Book Review

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Description: Oliver Ryan is a deeply unsettling character. The novel opens with him beating is wife and feeling no remorse. Thankfully author Liz Nugent offers several chapters told from the point of view of various characters who “unravel” the mystery of Oliver Ryan, well-loved children’s book author and dotting husband (who has the occasional tryst). Billed as psychological suspense, Unraveling Oliver delivers a fast-paced punchy novel (pun intended). Each chapter unravels another part of Oliver’s history, giving the reader a look at a boy—now a man—who is unloved and rejected by his father (a priest who brought more than the word of God to his parish). Oliver grows up in a boarding school, is looked after by Father Daniels, sent to university where he meets the lovely, vivacious Laura, does some summer travel, falls out of love with Laura, finds a family, loses a family, marries his mousey illustrator and does not live happily ever after.

• Winner of the Crime Fiction Prize in 2014 Irish Book Awards

Perfect Read for those who like BBC crime dramas. This is an Irish psycho suspense novel. The book jacket is spot on with its comp to Patricia Highsmith’s unforgettable noir classic The Talented Mr. Ripley. If you like sinister yet enjoyable tales this is for you. The domestic abuse is limited to the opening and closing chapters. The main guts of the novel are the relationships different characters have with Oliver, and their take on him. Strongly recommended.

Favourite Moment: Oliver, his girlfriend Laura and Laura’s brother Michael are working on a vineyard in France. Michael also has a crush on Oliver yet isn’t out of the closet. To “straighten him out”, Oliver suggests that Michael seduce Madame Veronique, the proprietress of the vineyard. There are several funny attempts that ultimately result in Michael confessing to Veronique that he is gay. It’s the 60s, and Ireland didn’t decriminalize homosexuality until 1993, so there’s a lot of fear and shame in his confession. Veronique changes his life by helping him be comfortable with himself. If there was a character in the book that I wish had more storytelling space, it is Veronique.

(edited to avoid spoilers)
Infamy is a lot more interesting than fame, it seems. It is not just the tabloids who think so. An acre of newsprint was used up in documenting the fall from grace of the successful writer who turned out to be a wife beater. Pundits who might previously have described themselves as close personal friends are now granting interviews in which they claim that they always knew there was something strange about me. They speculate that I was in the habit of beating my wife, despite the lack of evidence at the trial to support the theory, and they relate conversations that never happened that imply I was always violent and that Alice was terrified of me.

 

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Published by Simon and Schuster Canada
Liznugent.ie
Twitter @lizzienugent