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Apple Tree Yard
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 March 2014
‘Apple Tree Yard’ opens in a courtroom, with our narrator in the dock, although we don’t yet know her crime. To explain how she got there, Yvonne takes us right back to the beginning - to the events that set everything in motion.

Yvonne is 52, married, has two children and is a successful geneticist. She could be any one of us. As she takes pains to point out – her life is ordinary. But the choices she makes over the course of a few short months will take her down a road that Yvonne never thought she would travel.

The direction of the book continually changes as it progresses. Every time we think we can see where the story is leading, something shifts, changing with it our perceptions of characters. The end, when it comes, is a tense and anxious experience, all building up to the one moment that has the potential to change her life forever.

The style of writing in this book, as though the narrator is talking directly to her readers while she tells her story, creates an immediate feeling of intimacy. We are thrown completely into Yvonne’s world and her innermost thoughts. She isn’t too kind on herself, instead treating the whole situation with the type of biting honesty and self-criticism that we all have in hindsight. Because of this intimacy and the way that the story unfolds, we feel each betrayal or cutting remark thrown her way, just as we feel alternately vindicated, frustrated or devastated by every decision Yvonne makes.

We don’t find out Yvonne’s name until quite far into the book. Similarly we don’t know the names of her husband, her children, or her co-defendant. In fact, for much of the book, it is just ‘I’ and ‘You’ and ‘my husband’. When Yvonne does start to use people’s names in her story, it signals a breaking of the exciting, fictional illusion that she has created, and the reality of her decisions and their impact on the people around her starts to creep back in.

This book hits a nerve is because we’re watching someone’s life unravelling right in front of us. We all make bad decisions. We all have secrets. We all have parts of ourselves that we’re not proud of or that we’d like to keep hidden. And as Yvonne is forced to confront her secrets and her choices in a very public way, it’s clear that she could be any one of us, had we only chosen differently.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 29 January 2014
“Apple Tree Yard” by Louise Doughty is a novel that combines psychological thriller with a story about the wrong choices and morality.

In the centre of the story is woman named Yvonne Carmichael who is in her fifties, married and has two grown children. In professional life Yvonne also had only successes and a great career behind, as known geneticist.

But one day she will make irrational choice when during giving evidence to a Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament, she will meet a man and will have sex with him in the Chapel in the Crypt.

This will start an adventure with this man and while getting to know him, she will gradually realize that he is much different from what she thought at the beginning. An adventure that will eventually evolve from casual short-term escape from her marriage will evolve to something serious and lead to violence.

And due to that Yvonne will end up in the trial in the world's most famous court - Old Bailey - accused of the most serious possible crime that she could commit…

Louise Doughty with “Apple Tree Yard” delivered an original and moving novel about a woman in (often unjust) men world; a woman who made a mistake engaging in an affair with terrible ending.

The author successfully avoids many clichés and although at the novel beginning we know what happened to the main, only with the completion of the reading will catch all the threads of the story.

Therefore this story is not one in a series of romantic novels that often are perhaps unfairly called a light literature, but surprisingly the novel that with each page becomes more and more interesting. And although our heroine can sometimes go on our nerves with her behavior, yet reader cannot help but cheer for her, all through the interesting and unexpected end.

“Apple Tree Yard” is novel full of suspense, a psychological thriller that at times starts to seem too heavy for reading due to the darkness which brings, leaving the impression of chill and fear behind – a work that was a big surprise for me, a book worth your time.
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77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes a book you don't expect to like really takes you by surprise and makes you sit up and take notice. Gripping from the beginning this book takes you on a roller coaster of a journey as we watch as Yvonne Carmichael, a renowned scientist, begins an illicit and highly addictive extra marital affair with man who is at first a stranger. This irresponsible liaison which begins with a risky sexual encounter will ultimately spin Yvonne's life out of control.

I think what I found refreshing is that Yvonne is fifty-two, not some inexperienced ingénue, so it could be argued that she should have known better - but what it does prove is that we are never too old to act out of character - and that pushing self destruct buttons is not merely a prerogative of being young and in love.

To say more about this story would be to do the book a complete disservice- it is definitely one of those books which once started you simply can't put down. I started reading it on a sunny day in the garden at about 11:30 and didn't look up, except for food and drink some twelve hours later.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What if you fell violently in lust with a stranger and had an affair. What if this turned into something obsessive? What if you made the wrong choices? Dr Yvonne Carmichael , an eminent scientist, married with children, respected and well liked, falls into these 'what ifs', and brings us along with her.

We meet her as she is sitting in the witness chair, at the Queen's Court, staring at someone who is or was her lover, being questioned by the opposing counsel. She tells her story as if she is talking to her lover, and we go with her on this journey. Her life was not without troubles, a son with mental illness, a husband who goes astray, but this affair was most unlike this woman. She was the one who held their lives together. What about her could cause the sort of difficulty she now shares with her lover.

For some reason her life has slipped out of control. She starts to examine her life, with us in tow. What kind of choices did she make to put her in this position? What can she do to manage her life. As we learn more about this woman, we travel the road, and the psychological darkness becomes overpowering. The violence and the aftermath are now apparent, and as we try to make sense of what occurred, we wonder how this came about. We see and hear the opposing counsel as she brings us down the path of destruction.

This is a fascinating story of love, lust and obsession gone wrong. A story to ponder. The writing is beautifully wrought, and keeps us so intent upon understanding that soon we are unable to put the book down. Well done!

Recommended. prisrob 02-13-14
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Yvonne Carmichael is a middle aged married woman, a mother of two grown children, and a respected scientist. When we meet her, she is in Court – facing cross examination at the Old Bailey. As her story unfolds, we discover how, and why, she came to be there and what happened. Yvonne herself is the narrator of her story and we see everything through her eyes. Although content in her career and her marriage, life seems to have settled into a certain routine dullness. Therefore, when she is giving evidence at a Government Select Committee, she is feeling her usual capable and confident self. However, a chance meeting with a man leads to an instant attraction and, suddenly, she is behaving totally out of character.

Seeing everything through Yvonne’s eyes means that we see her lover through her own rose tinted glasses. She creates a persona for him, based on little evidence; but enjoys their cloak and dagger meetings and the excitement it brings into her life. However, although she feels that she is not hurting anyone, her affair will have terrible consequences...

This is very well written and Yvonne is an interesting character. Her scientific background makes her often dispassionate, especially in the re-telling of her own life and marriage and it gradually becomes obvious that she is more affected by her past than she cares to admit. The author does a very good job of building events up to the climax of the Courtroom scenes and the evidence which we hear did really take me by surprise. Overall, this is an excellent read and would make a wonderful book club read, with much to discuss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
So, Apple Tree Yard has been sat patiently waiting on my kindle while many people have told me to get on with it, its terrific, one of the best books of the year...and so I decided it was about time I gave it a go. Do I agree with all the hype? Well Yes.

Synopsis

Yvonne Carmichael is a geneticist, a scientist renowned in her field but one day, she makes the most irrational of decisions. While she is giving evidence to a Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament, she meets a man and has sex with him in the secluded Chapel in the Crypt. It's the beginning of a reckless liaison, but there is more to her lover than is at first apparent - as Yvonne discovers when the affair spins out of control and leads inexorably to violence.

Addictive. Totally and utterly addictive. Yvonne tells the tale...opening with a courtroom scene as she stands accused along with her lover of what, exactly, we are unsure of at that point and then takes us back to the beginning of it all and leads us to the truth of the matter.

Louise Doughty has an alluring writing style...Yvonne, as she tells us the story, is very dry and exacting - in some ways "Just the facts, Ma'am" but with an emotional core that is hard to fault. You will just keep reading...each part leading inexorably to the next while she digs herself deeper and deeper into an affair with a man of whom she knows nothing. She assumes, gives him depth and fleshes him out...but we all know what "assume" does, do we not?

In a lot of ways this is much more a character piece than it is a mystery - in that the mystery is unlocked by coming to know the character. Yvonne, her choices, her reasoning, her "excuses" if you like all add up to make a whole. The man she is embroiled with IS an enigma and seeing him only through her eyes makes him that way. We see him as she does...and as her eyes open so do ours.

Brilliantly done...clever, intriguing, utterly compelling, the story of how a normal, intelligent and pretty average woman gets caught up in infidelity and brutality, almost by accident. Highly recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This was a superb piece of writing; an edge of the seat courtroom drama with twists and turns of back-story, believable and necessary blind alleys and secrecy, and lots of dark undercurrents about relationships between the sexes, the casual violence and patronisation even other women can offer to each other.

There is little which can be usefully laid out in a review without spoiling the reader's journey. All I will say is that it took quite a long time for me to really realise why the central character was in that court as a defendant in a murder trial. None of Doughty's journey red-herrings were at all spurious, and the various shocks she offers are absolutely tight, believable and coherent.

Several reviewers have compared her grasp of believable psychological twisting of the reader, unfurling of character and plot, to Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell in darker, more disturbing psychological mode) For once, such an admiring comparison is accurate.

I've been disappointed recently in several sub-psychological crime/thrillers, but recommend this highly. Doughty does not manipulate any of her characters in an unbelievable way.

As long as you accept the premise that the madness of love and lust can strike any of us and make us go places which are surprising, all the rest follows

I like the elegant structure of the book which in the major sections, connects to the work of the central character, a geneticist, and how what is hidden, twisted, subterranean in the journey of the novel echoes that double helix.

This is a perfect summer (or winter holiday) read, but also leaves you thinking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 February 2014
This is an incredible book: a fantastic story, an absolutely gripping read, and a furious indictment of the way women are treated by the law and the courts. I can't praise it highly enough.

Louise Doughty is absolutely brilliant at creating tension and suspense. The story starts with a woman who is in court, obviously on trial with her lover for a very serious offence but we don't know what they're supposed to have done or why, or any details at all. The story is revealed bit by bit and it makes for compulsive reading. The details of the workings of parliaments, universities and the courts are fantastically detailed, as are the workings of the human mind.

However what will stay with me most from this book is the fury the author clearly feels (and so will every person who reads this) about the way women are humiliated, bullied, exposed and mentally assaulted by the legal system when they either instigate, or are unlucky enough to be called as witnesses, in cases where sex is involved. And this is without once mentioning the further humiliation and shame likely to be heaped on them by the press. That and the horrendous anecdote about the chimpanzees and the heated floor...

This is a staggeringly good book. It's a great story. It's amazing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2014
I have just finished "Apple Tree Yard" and found it to be many things, all of them good. Firstly the writing is excellent but because the plot is so gripping I must admit I rather rushed through the book when really I should have savored the quality of the prose. This tale of a middle aged professional woman caught up in a sexually charged affair with a man who may not be all that he seems and may indeed be something utterly different is compulsively readable and involving on many levels. It is book about moral choices, women's role at home\work and in society and the way this has changed and yet had still so far to go. It is also about the compromises and rewards of long term relationships, the nature of love and the constructs of what we think of as "self". All these big themes are explored within a tightly written plot which has stayed with me after I read the final words. I am not sure if I liked the heroine but she held my attention throughout I also thought it was very well researched, the court room scenes were so convincing, with their blend of tedium, drama and theatre. All in all, an excellent and engrossing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2013
I'm a real fan of Louise Doughty's writing &, for me, this is her best work yet. After the first few pages, I started racing through it to discover what had led up to the prologue - but even so, the power of her writing kept pulling me up short. About 20% in, I realised I was in danger of not fully appreciating her piercingly accurate, often poignant, observations; the finer nuances of her protagonists and her beautiful turn of phrase. So I went back to the beginning again and started reading more slowly, more carefully, savouring every word as well as the build-up of suspense. It's beautifully written, but not in a self-congratulatory or tricksy way
Illicit sex with more than a hint of sub/dom, obsession, courtroom drama - yes, they're all there. But the real beauty of this book lies in its exploration of the human condition, of the way we deceive ourselves and others, of the glue that holds a marriage together, of the impossibility of truly knowing what motivates another human being simply from the picture they present to you.
Highly, highly recommended - hard though it is, try to read at a measured pace to fully appreciate this novel.
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