Laura Hamley has everything: a loving and successful husband, two children and an expensive home. But then she receives a phone call from the mother of a girl Laura bullied at school. As Laura is drawn into the past, she is forced to face the consequences of her cruelty. But, as her secrets are revealed, so too is an even more devastating truth....
©2010 Suzanne Bugler (P)2010 WF Howes Ltd
The long term consequences of childhood cruelty are explored in this very nuanced book. Consequences to the victim yes, but also to the bully. When Laura is reluctantly forced to confront her own past behavior she is horrified by her actions. As she slowly works towards some kind of redemption, she begins to examine everything that makes up her own " perfect life ".
I enjoyed this very much. An uncomfortable read at times. The cruelty to "poor Heddy Partridge" was painful to experience, but the slow and steady deconstruction of everything Laura thought was important was so compelling that I couldn't look away. The denouement was very unexpected to me and the note the book ended on was kind of unusual but I think that increased my enjoyment. I'm actually sorry to have finished. I really wanted to know more. Great job by the narrator too. Very credit worthy.
a woman contemplating reasons for divorce
Ms McMahon was excellent all round, it would be churlish to pick any one particular character
in the final analysis, boredom
I am not one of those admirable readers who read/listen to a book to the end, regardless. If I get anything more than whiff that I am not enjoying the book, gets binned. I listened this book to the end and did so without hesitation (oh, all right, a slight hesitation).
When I decided to write reviews I made a few rules for myself. The golden one was, no spoilers. This makes for a difficulty for me in reviewing this book because, to explain why two/three stars rather than my original inclination to give three/four star s would entail disclosing a spoiler.
Just about every character in the novel is unpleasant, not hugely so perhaps, but nonetheless, unpleasant. Those few who are not unpleasant compensate by leading unpleasant lives. The unpleasant attributes of the players are never leavened with some more positive strain of human behaviour, the misanthropy is total . This makes for depressing reading. The subject matter, bullying and the deliberate acts willingly undertaken in order to inflict misery on another person is a behaviour that, like death, diminishes us all.
Consequently, the combination of unlikeable characters wandering in and out of a glum narrative of distress demands a writing style that is clean and sharp in order to keep the reader engaged. This the writer does not achieve. The writing has real quality but there are puzzling positions... The main character tells us how attractive, physically attuned(for sport) and successful an all-round wife (if unhappy) and mother she is and yet, is simply baffled as to handle a life problem of no great dimension (at least for someone as gifted as she is) . As the novel proceeds, the writing softens with the accumulation damp padding, resulting in the burden becoming too great, and so it sags and is finally overwhelmed.
The quality of Ms MacMahon's reading, almost rescues the story; indeed ,for me, she kept it sufficiently alive to help convince me to stay with it to the end.
As to the spoiler conflict. If you write a tale in the first person in which the teller is also a character (in this case the main character) you are limited in your view of the novel's landscape. You are unable to reveal to the reader as to what Paul and Betty wossname get up to in bed every Wednesday afternoon because you weren't there and can't know.
Equally, if you are present during, actions/behaviours that effect the mind set of you, the teller of the tale, it is not credible for you the author, to conceal that knowledge from the reader simply to enhance the dramatic effect. You can't go through a novel as the first person character, constantly saying no-one loves you because you never give people big hugs and leave it at that until the last page, when you reveal that you lost both arms at the last battle of Ypres.
"hard hitting but contains hope for change"
I chose this story after looking up Richard and Judy's best reads - this story was one selected for their spring 2011 book club.
Not to put a finer word on it - this story is extremely chilling and horrifying in places. No ghosts, nothing supernatural - simply 2 girls'/women's stark reality of their childhood and the huge impact is has for their adult life.
I found it extremely hard to listen to in places because of the narrative not the reader - she was excellent! and kept saying to myself - 'Hope. this book needs to instill some hope into me, the listener, if I am to recommend this story'. I'm glad to say I got my hope and therefore recommend highly although not without a health warning - this is not an easy read/listen.
Just want to add:
If the Noughts and Crosses book can be on the list in some schools for 13 year olds to read then I believe this book should also be on the reading list for high school kids.
Despite the excellent reading this book was relentlessly depressing and very upsetting - in addition there are some extremely vivid scenes involving self harming which are very distressing to listen to. Furthermore the plot is only moderately gripping.
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