Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better.... After escaping London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine plans to spend her days doing as little as possible in her beautiful home in Devon.
But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody's been expelled - there is, and was, no George. Then the anonymous calls start: a stranger, making threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past and a guilty secret - yet Justine doesn't recognise her voice.
When the caller starts to talk about three graves - two big and one small, to fit a child - Justine fears for her family's safety. If the police can't help, she'll have to eliminate the danger herself, but first she must work out who she's supposed to be....
©2015 Sophie Hannah (P)2015 Hodder & Stoughton
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"Losing the plot"
"Always keep a grip on the truth." So Justine advises her 14 year-old daughter Ellen at the end of this story. It’s sound advice which Hannah would have done well to follow. A psychological thriller which 'A Game for all the family' purports to be must be anchored in credible reality. Despite some research in the psychology of fantasists and pathological liars which sticks out awkwardly in the narrative, Hannah's vastly over-complex plot totally loses sight of reality. We are asked to accept far too much that is quite simply ridiculously far beyond the realms of even distant likelihood. The stories written by Ellen and her 14 year-old friend George which form a spine of the story display insights and language far beyond their years - 'the virgin and whore theory of Sigmund Freud'; 'mayhem and redemption'; 'high principles and protocol'; the Holy Grail as a metaphor... A headmistress is persuaded to pretend to expel a boy and then lie about it; a sane and successful university academic digs a grave in his neighbour's garden. We are asked to accept that the police will not trace the murderer after the victim's clothes and bits of brain are found; that a 14 year-old girl will assert that she’s engaged to 14 year old gay boy. None of the incidents and scenarios has a shred of credibility and consequently the listener is not engaged except to see what further absurdities Hannah will think up. Listen to the end and you will be rewarded with the most ridiculous.
But it isn't just the story - it's the narration which adds to the lack of credibility and absurdity of it all. Ellen is 14 but is given the intensely irritating voice of a 6 year-old; super-precocious George, also 14, sounds like a 12 year old child. The Headmistress sounds like a rather silly 12 year-old and would you take an adult nuisance caller seriously as did Justine who sounds like a deranged child with a lisp?
"Well I thought it was excellent"
Lots of negative reviews, which are a bit unfair to be honest. It is a great psychological mystery, with layer upon layer of things to keep you guessing right till the end. Well narrated too.
"A page turner - but for the wrong reasons..."
I bought this book - as an Audible audiobook- after hearing the author interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour programme. It's a strange tale in which none of the main characters act normally, in fact their behaviour is so bizarre that the plot of the novel seriously lacks credibility. There are some quick fixes to plot holes and I'm not completely certain that the timeline of events in the book is accurate. What was most unconvincing was the author's flimsy explanations (shored up by amateur psychology) for her characters' behaviour. There is a general lack of depth to all of the characters and a tendency to gloss over both situations and actions which are convenient to the plot. I just could not wait to get to the end of this book to find out how Sophie Hannah was going to tie up all the loose ends in this story. Unfortunately the denouement was as unsatisfactory as the rest of the novel
I enjoyed the performance by Julia Barrie which was excellent as usual but the made up history of the family was nonsense.
Friday on my mind by Nicci French
I enjoyed the dog scenes
The sister Fleur
"Gripping to a point"
A good story, kept me engaged....a little disappointed in the ending....could have been a bit more complex but didn't see that coming if I'm honest
"Great story, brilliantly narrated..."
I Loved this book. Weird story, but so intriguing. The narrator's voice brought this alive.
"15 wasted hours I will not get back"
I have been listening to audiobooks for more then 10 years and this must count as one of the worst books I have listened to. I don't like being this negative but considering the overall positive reception in the press makes me wonder whether they read a different book from the one I have just been listening to.
All the characters were cartoon like, one dimensional and generally uninteresting. Given the fact that the people in the book never really come to life it is difficult to feel any interest or empathy with them and the story. The plot is so ridiculously contrived and long winded and it just goes on and on. I stuck with it because I hoped Sophie Hannah would somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat and safe this poor story somewhat. Unfortunately it never happened.
Sophie Hannah says that she loves Ruth Rendell, so do I, unfortunately her writing doesn't even come near to the quality of Ruth Rendell.
On top of that the voice the narrator gave to the different characters was clumsy and rather depressing to listen to.
"Sophie lost he way sometime ago..."
A better story. Sophie is a good example of a writer who has developed considerable narrative skill but run out of stories worth telling.
I think she needs to find someone with a worthwhile story and offer to ghost write.
Can't think of one.
It isn't about the characters. There is no exchange with the reader. The experience is like trying to eat wax fruit..... if you can imagine.
"Enter the world of fantasy"
Everything! It was sooo unbelievable, none of the characters came even remotely close to real life people. The plot was bonkers. The end was a relief. I join the woman who, in her preview said, she only kept on to the end because she disliked not finishing a book.
I'll go back to wellknown grounds for a while after this one. I do have a couple of Sophie Hannah books and I wanted to give her a chance. Not anymore.
The narrator was ok. No way she could have saved this one anyway.
I lost count on all the times I yelled out loud "Arh come on! You're kidding me!" during the listen.
"I didn't like this at all. "
What on earth was that all about? How did this book slip through the net? Not gripping. Not page turning. Narrator's voices for some characters were awful!
A really daft story that I only persisted with because I don't like not finishing books.
So unlike Sophie Hannah's other books. Disappointed.
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