“Is that what our middle-class culture created? People formed more by the books they’d read than the lives they’d lived?”
Shelley and her mother have finally escaped from their persecutors – Shelley from school bullies who used to be her closest friends and Elizabeth from her domineering husband. They’ve found a new start in a beautiful cottage in the countryside and are getting on with their lives. When a burglar enters their house on the eve of Shelley’s sixteenth birthday, the cowering women fear for their lives once more…
The first thing to be said here is that the book is written in Shelley’s voice and Reece writes an extraordinarily convincing 16-year-old girl. She’s a little immature, can be a bit of a know-it-all, but the scars left by the bullies (physical and mental) are there for all to see.
Secondly, this is a really scary book! I don’t often give up on books because they frighten me (admittedly, I never read horror, and I did give up on Deliver Us From Evil because of the awful torture being doled out by the bad guys), and “an electrifying psychological thriller” on the inside cover should have been plenty of warning, but this got to me in a way that other, more graphic novels (Taboo, The Survivor) did not. In the end I had to speed-read from about page 150 to the end because I couldn’t take the horror any more!
The plot is not terribly complicated, which is one of its strengths – Reece spends 100 pages setting up the characters, about 50 on the main event, and the rest of the book preying on Shelley and Elizabeth’s sanities. The setting is so prosaic, a little countryside cottage, that the events become all too plausible and realistic. The writing is not high-quality in the conventional sense, but like Emma Donoghue’s Room, the author has achieved an authentic child narrator and sacrificed a little lyricism in that pursuit.
Highly recommended to those who like this kind of harrowing psychothriller. Not recommended at all to women who live alone in creaky buildings.
I’m giving away my copy of this novel, a once-read hardback with dust jacket, leave a comment or tweet at me (@readingwithtea) to enter. I’ll draw the giveaway a week today (Friday 9th Sept).