on 30 September 2013
Like most people, I followed the infamous Amanda Knox trial in Italy as it happened and again as she won her appeal last year. And I'll probably watch a third time as they go back to court yet again. Even if you're only vaguely aware of the details surrounding the murder of Meredith Kercher, you'd be hard pressed not to find similarities between the Knox trial and Lily Hayes's case in Cartwheel, which is so similar it might as well be a fictional account of the trial in Perugia.
Cartwheel goes deeper than the headlines and into the mind and consciousness of Lily Hayes, suspected murderer, as well as those of the people around her, and offers up a story that simmers with tension and keeps you second guessing your perception of various characters all the way through. You'll finish the book with quite a few questions and I'll warn you now, Cartwheel will linger in your mind for a bit. I'm still mulling it over and thinking about it.
I wasn't sure if I liked Lily, the main character. I wanted to scream at her for her naïvete which, at the same time, I couldn't wholly believe in. Was Lily really that innocent of a girl or was she calculating and duplicitous, fooling even the reader? I still don't know.
duBois's novel rightfully deserves to be a pick for The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2013. I highly recommend it to just about anyone, particularly fans of fictionalised true crime - it doesn't get much better than this!
on 24 August 2014
Reading CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois is akin to picking up an issue of The Star or the National Enquirer at the local supermarket. Most people will be aware that this novel was inspired by Amanda Knox, an American foreign exchange student who was tried for the murder of her roommate. The Knox case was, and continues to be, fodder for the tabloids. In duBois's very imaginative fictionalized version of the tale, Lily Hayes is the sexually active, priveledged, and morally complex young woman accused of the murder of her roommate and fellow exchange student Katy Kellers. Kellers is also sexually active and more than a little devious but displays a façade of freshness and innocence.
The reader is taken back and forth in time as each character in this sizable cast recounts their actions and interactions with and between the two women from their individual perspectives. From Lily's put upon father Andrew and Sebastian, Lily's next door neighbor and part time boyfriend to her younger sister Anna, each narrator comes with plenty of personal emotional baggage. For the most part, all of the characters in this book are not very likable - from the victim herself and the smarmy Sebastian down to the Argentine prosecutor Eduardo Campos, who is possibly the most interesting and complex character. Eduardo is a man advanced in years who seems to have a genuine dislike for young people and their youthful peccadillos . While he never really stoops to actually altering the facts in the cases he prosecutes, he is not above omitting certain data while at the same time utilizing everything from biased media depictions of the two women (casting them as virgin and vixen - young girl versus woman) in order to manipulate and adjust public perception. He is a bitter climber with an agenda.
The author manages to bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of Argentina as she leads us through the unfathomable nightmare that results from what was supposed to be a young woman's fun filled cultural experience. Lily, it seems, is her own worst enemy.
As for the title, Cartwheel, it is the perfect metaphor for the mental gymnastics the reader goes thru as they turn the details in this narrative over and over while conducting an inner monolog in attempt to arrive at a viable answer to the question "Did a young woman who appears to have everything going for her really commit murder"?
on 30 October 2014
Ostensibly a fictionalised account of the Amanda Knox murder trial, the book circles the different perspectives of those involved in the case -- and how each of them projects themselves onto the somewhat amorphous character of the Knox character. Parts of it are exquisitely written, the acme of good writing. Other paragraphs are meaningless twaddle that I had to re-read two or three time to get the sense of them. A frustrating book.
on 17 October 2013
I have concluded that my book selection swayed by the PR was totally wrong. This is not the type of novel that I enjoy or even find interesting. Having read other reviews now I would still have made the same mistake. Jennifer DuBois must be very pleased with the feedback from readers but unfortunately I am not one of them. This book mysteriously forced me through to its end, whilst just giving me crumbs of hope that it may just turn the corner, and provide some excitement and entertainment.
Cartwheel was an odd name for this book and until this was explained, you could be forgiven for linking to the speed of an old wooden cart. The writing style may suit a lot of people who scan and don't actually read all the words, as it is crowded with a great excess of text that perhaps adds only a little to characters and atmosphere, but nothing for the overall story - it could have forty percent shorter and would have moved along more quickly.
Other reviewers have suggested Cartwheel is based on, or inspired by the Amanda Knox story, to me that sounds about right, as here we are several years on and we still don't know for sure who killed the victim. The characters painted by the author were all very troubled, in particular Sebastian who was a great irritation whilst reading, his language forcing you to stop and ponder what was actually said. This character could have been easily used to spice up the plot creating some exciting diversions for the reader.
If like me you like a fast paced exciting thriller my recommendation is give this a pass.