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Apple Tree Yard

A Novel
Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
Length: 14 hrs and 1 min
4 out of 5 stars (432 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An intelligent, erotically charged thriller with deep moral implications

Yvonne Carmichael, renowned geneticist, public authority, happily married mother of two, sits in the accused box. The charge is murder. Across the courtroom, not meeting her eye, sits her alleged accomplice. He wears the beautiful pin-striped suit he wore on their first meeting in the Houses of Parliament, when he put his hand on her elbow, guided her to a deserted and ancient chapel, and began to undress her. As the barrister’s voice grows low and sinuous, Yvonne realizes she’s lost herself and the life she’d built so carefully to a man who never existed at all.

After their first liaison, Yvonne’s lover tells her very little about himself, but she comes to suspect his secrecy has an explanation connected with the British government. So thrilled and absorbed is she in her newfound sexual power that she fails to notice the real danger about to blindside her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Then, reeling from an act of violence, Yvonne discovers that her desire for justice and revenge has already been compromised. Everything hinges on one night in a dark little alley called Apple Tree Yard.

©2013 Louise Doughty (P)2013 Canongate Books Ltd. in partnership with Faber and Faber Ltd. and used by arrangement, all rights reserved. Published by Brilliance Audio.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

No Scarlet 'A' in Apple Tree

There was Eve and that forbidden apple, Snow White and her poisonous apple, and here is Yvonne Carmichael, and her 'apple' of sorts -- a damning lie about Apple Tree Yard, a back alley near the House of Parliament where Yvonne and her former lover now sit, on trial for murder. A slow, but blunt start, this novel picks up speed like a sprinter and holds the listener in its slipstream until the very last sentence. I couldn't put it down, except for a few times when it was necessary to shake out the tension.

Doughty's novel is an intelligent, cleverly constructed suspense thriller, at times sharp, provocative, frank and straight forward, twisting into unexpected moments of beautiful prose and searing insight. This is a book that leads you into moral judgements, then has you chucking them aside, looking closer at substance and shadows. The author's depiction of the modern day woman and the duality of roles is brilliant : does good mother mean no career? earns half the income, so half the housework? does a philandering husband suffer the same scrutiny as an adulterous wife? are middle-aged men judged as harshly as middle-aged women?

The book begins by revealing the ending, but it is the last couple of sentences that pull the trigger. The first person narrative is done in the style of an imaginary retrospective letter Yvonne reads to her former lover (whom she calls only 'X' for most of the book) while she awaits questioning. Her cool professional style paints the events in a glaring, harsh light; the almost scientific delivery void of emotion, adding to the mystery and drama surrounding this crime...of passion ?
"DNA made me and DNA undid me."
While the pragmatic approach may slow down the launch, it's what develops the psychological arc of the story. Cutting in and out of the past and present, Yvonne selectively discloses the chain of events that propelled the two lovers to this tragic end. The details are rationed out like steamy little bits with just hints of everyday family life, dropped in like speed bumps as the affair proceeds with lightning rapidity.
“In 18 months' time, I would discover that his blood group was O Positive.”
A few moments later, the narration is thrust to the present, a black-robed barrister closing in.

Doughty's courtroom scenes make you understand the term *sweating bullets* -- they are deliberate and tense, as wonderfully agonizing as a poisonous spider crawling up an arm. Yvonne's facts begin to hint at the slightest insecurities about being an aging female. The barrister seems over confident. You feel the hold you thought you had on the truth slipping away and find yourself asking, where is the deceit. Is it the experienced lover that emphasized constantly to never admit the affair, there is no way to prove the affair, no evidence....or Yvonne herself, the respected 52 yr. old geneticist with "status and gravitas...when I don't have my tights round my ankles in a secluded chapel beneath the house of Parliament, that is." The truth is somewhere between the lines in Yvonne's narration. Yvonne may not elicit sympathy from readers, but she isn't deserving of the scarlet letter. She feels real and vulnerable, even similar to some modern professional women you may have met.

I wondered why this was placed on that curtained-off bottom shelf of Erotica & Sexuality, not a genre I usually choose. Call me kinky, but I would say more spicy than erotic; a tightly woven courtroom drama/psychological thriller (for men & women), that is definitely sexually and erotically charged -- deserving more of a full-frontal shelf in Fiction (since Henry Miller, Anais Niin, D. H. Lawrence are stacked in those shelves). Add cautionary tale to the many genres tagged to this book: one impulsive bad choice can upset the whole apple barrel.

56 of 65 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Slow Start But Hang in There

This was a very well written, well narrated story. It starts slow but it is worth the wait to hang in there until things get going. I don't like to give s synopsis of the story because you can read the summary on the Audible page. I would categorize this as psychological suspense. The author takes her time in revealing intermittent surprises but she keeps the story interesting along the way for the most part. I am one who doesn't have much patience for a boring story. I have returned more than a couple of books because I could not get into them. I did not return this one. I would recommend it slow start and all.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Boring

A story that could have been told in a couple of hours went on and on. A narcissistic heroine and a featureless lover who deserve whatever they get from each other have multiple uninteresting sexual encounters. I fast forwarded constantly and then backtracked if I thought I'd missed an element that would reveal the hinted-at crime. When I finally got to that then I wanted to know if these colorless characters would get their just desserts. so I fast forwarded some more. In addition to finding out if the author could find a way to end it, the other thing that kept me going was Juliet Stevenson's good narration.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not bad, but a relatively plain mystery, really

Juliet Stevenson infuses pathos and melancholy into a dreamy, naive protagonist who becomes entrapped in what proves to be a rather mundane murder. The story is told first-person from the protagonist's viewpoint and she addresses her thoughts to a unnamed "you," the man with whom she engages in an improbable affair. For most of the novel, the real mystery is figuring out who the man really is, his motivations and his true feelings for the protagonist. We don't even know his name until more than two-thirds of the way into the story. I found the device wore very thin and I probably would have bailed were it not for Stevenson's expert reading. As it turned out, I am glad I stuck with it because I do think the novel had some intriguing elements and the writing is excellent in parts, with interesting characterizations. By the end it was clear Doughty meant this to be, in part, a play on the techniques of storytelling. At one point in the protagonist's trial, she observes, "I realized that all one needs for a story is a collection of facts." Yes, that and few more things, and maybe especially a consummate actress like Juliet Stevenson reading your stuff.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Really on the fence about this one

There were parts of this book that I really liked - mainly the narration, which is fantastic. And the writing is very good. But the main character is - I can't make up my mind. She's in her early fifties, and supposedly really accomplished...but. It's not that she does something sort of wild once; it's that she carries on - and what was wild once just becomes pretty stupid. I'm trying to avoid a spoiler here; so let's just say: What did she think was going on? I have a hard time buying that a supposedly intelligent person would get herself into this predicament. And, no, it's not the old 'you never really know anyone thing.' Because she doesn't even try to know. I mean, come on. Really? And by the end, honestly, she was getting on my nerves. On the other hand, I listened to the whole thing...

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A surprising, entertaining, exceptional listen.

Where does Apple Tree Yard rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top ten, of hundreds.

What did you like best about this story?

The way I was forced to admit I had been enjoying my own smug judgments. I was unable to maintain that attitude for long, as characters came alive and their flaws no longer wholly defined them. Also, the book went in a direction I didn't see coming and it really stunned me, which made me realize I'd been underestimating the novel even as I'd been enjoying it tremendously.

Which character – as performed by Juliet Stevenson – was your favorite?

Guy. I practically fell in love with him just for his extemporaneous demonstration as he explains why, in the face of unexpected threat, the limbic system will trump the cerebral cortex. That short scene told so much about him, even as he had so much to deal with he was still loyal and protective.
Juliet Stevenson was terrific throughout the book, I can't think of a character she did not perform well. Now that I think about it, the narration was so good I should have mentioned it above- what I liked best. But it was such a good narration that I didn't think much about it, I was so caught up in the story.

Any additional comments?

BUY THIS NOVEL! It's costs less than $13, and thru Dec 17th it is $9.09. headline . It's worth a credit, or a higher cost, the low price is just one more reason to buy.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Long and drawn out

This is a good story, but it is just too long. I ended up skipping thru chunks and didn’t really miss much.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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So much more than a crime novel

I seldom read crime novels, but I am really glad I got the Apple Tree Yard.I found it to be a real masterpiece - the descriptions of feelings and thoughts are so compelling, so true. This book is so much more than a crime novel - it is like a slice of life, an in depth look into what drives us to do what we do, to make the choices we make. I really hope to be able to listen to more works by Louse Doughty. Juliet Stevenson's narration is excellent as always.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent !

If you could sum up Apple Tree Yard in three words, what would they be?

Suspenseful, emotional, and compelling

What was one of the most memorable moments of Apple Tree Yard?

The entire story was compelling. It was difficult to turn it off!

Have you listened to any of Juliet Stevenson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

A wonderful narrator ! I would like to hear more of her narration

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was drawn into this story by the elegance of the prose and the intimacy of the narration. I related to the emotions of the first person narrator.

Any additional comments?

Loved it !

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Brilliant narration helped curious book

I struggle with how to file away this book in my brain.....In some ways, this is a standard story where we are teased with the ending (we start knowing that the narrator Yvonne is in the dock charged with a crime) and then we are relayed the story of how an ordinary person got involved in problems and the criminal justice system. But in other ways, it's a complex story of how one decision can lead to a downward spiral out of control and turn a middle-class wife and mother into a person her friends and family wouldn't even recognize.

The thing I know for sure is that Juliet Stevenson did a wonderful job of narration; in fact, she was the prime reason I purchased this book in the first place. The writing is good (some of the courtroom scenes are very tense and difficult), and I actually liked the complexity of the narrator -- she seems very ordinary at first and probably thinks that of herself, but it's an illusion eventually made clear to all.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful