on 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.
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.
“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.
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.
on 4 July 2014
*SPOILERS* There are spoilers in the following review.
I was really looking forward to reading this book, it has lots of recommendations including Ian Rankin who is one of my favourite authors, so I made sure that I saved it for when I had no distractions and the time to savour and enjoy. Unfortunately the book was a total let down.
The narrator, Yvonne Carmichael, a 52yrs old scientist at the peak of her career embarks on an affair, I use the term very loosely as it consists of meeting in coffee shops then having sex in back alleys. The entire affair on both sides just beggars belief. He tells her absolutely nothing; he takes her nowhere; he doesn't even offer to get them a room. And yet we are expected to believe that this 52yrs old, highly intelligent woman, believes this man to be in love with her. I think possibly the worst part of the book, is where, with no encouragement from Mark (the lover), she decides that he is a spy!! There cannot be one person who read that and thought it likely.
The woman is unlikeable, unbelievable, delusional and has no credibility whatsoever. I presume that was the author's intent, to show how people's emotions overtake them to to the detriment of everything else. But you must have some basis in reality and this story did not. I lost the will to live.
Mark's perspective was just as bad, here is a serial adulterer who, we are asked to believe, is prepared to commit the worst crime known to man for a woman who he has sex with on occasion in a back alley.
On a positive note the rape scene is well depicted and quite harrowing. It is a pity it is enmeshed in the rest of this story. The trial scenes are interesting and well researched. But the plot just goes from bad to worse. The explanation for Mark's actions is no more than cod-psychology and the verdict is laughable. How a man who takes and uses a change of clothes to a crime scene can get his sentence reduced from premeditated murder to manslaughter, I have no idea. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.
The 'twist', as some people have referred to it, on the last page is no twist at all. It is totally predictable and the only thing left to happen.
I don't particularly like giving poor reviews, but this book has barely anything to recommend it. While the prose is fine and the court scenes well described, the plot is ludicrous in my opinion. But there are, at this moment in time, nearly 400 Amazon reviews that say I am wrong. They all give the book 5 stars, meaning that they believe it is one of the best books ever written. They can't all be wrong: can they?
on 12 March 2014
This book was quite enjoyable but it did leave you with several baffling unanswered questions about why the two lead characters behaved the way they did - and other family members didn't seem to be overly bothered by the whole thing. Quite readable but not very believable. The court case was quite predictable even though the female lead character seemed to continue thinking she was living in a Mills & Boon novel rather than real life. It was an Ok read, but the two lead characters were both quite annoying and many things were left unexplained to the reader. So for that reason I think I can only give it three stars.
"The minute you enter an intimate relationship with another person there is an automatic dissonance between your story about yourself and their story about you"
This is a wonderfully slippery text which wrong-foots us repeatedly as we navigate the story. It opens with a trial, but we don't know who is on trial or for what. Gradually the narrator draws us into her world: she's 52, a well-known geneticist, happily married - so how has her life narrowed to the Old Bailey?
This sounds as if it might be another one of those familiar stories where a respectable woman is drawn into an affair and her life spirals out of control and, to some extent, it is. Only this time Doughty's treatment of this scenario is done so well, with such control and lack of sensationalism that it feels completely fresh and utterly believable.
Our narrator's voice is compelling in its honesty, and especially stark as it lays bare the feelings of a still attractive woman in her 50s. A number of times we feel that we know what kind of book this is but somehow Doughty manages to pull off a switch that is so subtle it is almost unnoticeable until we realise this is a different kind of story altogether.
So this is quiet in lots of ways and doesn't indulge in the kind of overt twists and impossibilities that we sometimes find - but, for all that, it builds up into something which is increasingly anxious and uneasy, leaving us apprehensive and on edge. Highly recommended.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
on 4 February 2014
It's a real treat to come across a book as gripping, intelligent and impassioned as this. I'd previously read one book by Louise Doughty - Whatever You Love - which I thought had great strengths, but also some weaknesses (still, I'd heartily recommend it), but with Apple Tree Yard she's delivered an astonishingly accomplished novel that delivers on all fronts. It's brilliantly written, structurally very clever, exquisitely suspenseful. And underneath all of the literary skill and brilliance - and confidence, for LD is a supremely confident writer - this is an angry novel that has many important things to say - about inequality between the sexes, sexism, violence against women, how women are treated in the legal system; and also about the nature of identity, the idealised images we can form of others, and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, how we define ourselves. This is a novel of nuance and depth, it sparkles with intelligence, it's angry, but cogent and lucid, and to top it all it's a kick-ass thriller that gripped me from beginning to end. I finished it two days ago and it's still with me; I'm still thinking about it, reflecting on it, and I probably will be for some time. Outstanding.
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.
on 26 January 2016
Apple Tree Yard. Wow. What a ride! I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and am now sad that I gobbled it up so greedily that it’s all gone. I tried to make it last, really I did, but I couldn’t stop myself racing through at breakneck speed.
It is a story that pulls you in and drags you through, breathless, as an affair spontaneously begins between the enigmatic X and middle-aged Y. It gathers momentum as the backdrop changes from one of a humdrum existence to one where a vicious attack on the narrator has impact and repercussions.
The research is spot on, and the writing successfully maintains the edge of anonymity which is prevalent throughout the story, keeping the reader effectively distanced – an echo of the remoteness and sense of detachment that Y (who we later learn is named Yvonne) experiences with X (Mark). She knows very little about the man she meets for a series of thrilling and daring encounters.
There is a stark contrast between the characters. As the narrator, Yvonne‘s thought processes are open to the reader and allow us to identify with her and understand her motivations and reactions. She might have done wrong, but we know why. To the end, Mark remains closed, secretive and egocentric; aloof.
Embroiled throughout the whole story is a gripping court case; just watch the pages fly past during the courtroom scenes!
I normally limit my reading time to the hour before I go to sleep, but from morning to night, this book got lugged around with me – from room to room, upstairs and downstairs, shoved in my bag… it even came out on a car journey to the supermarket – just in case I had a free five minutes. I was also compelled to take extra coffee/reading breaks during the day just to get another fix.