Sometimes you know a book is for you from the very first page and for me, this was one of those books.
Valentine’s Day 2012 was the date of Zach Hopkins accident; tragically his car turned into a fire-ball after hitting a tree. It takes Lizzie a whole year before she is strong enough to visit the site of his death and his cottage in Cornwall. Reaching the tree which he’d hit with a bunch of flowers she notices another offering to Zach from Xenia, someone she has never heard of.
… and so the story begins. Told in the years running up to his death by Zach and in the present day by Lizzie, his widow. After finding the flowers Lizzie realises there was a lot about Zach that she didn’t know and when she starts her own investigations she realises there were far more gaps than she could have imagined. To make matters worse Lizzie is sure someone is following her and. Lizzie’s sister Peggy believes that this is because she is grieving, the problem was that Lizzie hadn’t been entirely honest with anyone before Zach’s death.
Sabine Durrant has created a truly terrifying character in Zach and Lizzie’s revelations about what life was like with her husband are all the more chilling because of the matter of fact way they are relayed. Zach’s own assessment of his relationship with Lizzie is even more disturbing. With Zach’s narrative echoing Lizzies many chapters later is an excellent device that allows the reader to see two sides of the same story without it appearing repetitive.
I rarely mention the ending of a book in my review because I don’t want to spoil the book for others but I’m going to break my own rules here by saying: the ending wasn’t what I expected but it wasn’t a disappointment either. That doesn’t give anything away as along the way there were enough twists and turns to make my head spin and I am notoriously bad at predictions!
I’d like to thank the publisher’s Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read this fantastic book for this unbiased, though glowing, review.
on 7 January 2015
Wow, what a cleverly written story of the kind I love most, twisted and devious with a menacing feel which creeps up on you. A psychological thriller with strong domestic interest it is told in first person and jumps from the perspective of Lizzie, in the present time dealing with the aftermath of her husband's death and the voice of Zach her late husband telling the story of how they met.
After the funeral Lizzie the cracks in her relationship with Zach begin to be revealed, despite loving him intensely she was planning to leave him just before his death and she begins to wonder if this played any part in the accident which killed him, but as her friends and sister worry about her frail state of mind, she begins to feel he may not even BE dead, is this her reaction to grief or does she have grounds for believing she is being followed. Is her head being messed with or is she just crumbling after her loss?
Neither narrator is the most reliable and as you get to know them both closely being sucked into their minds via their voices, you get to have a little sympathy for both, then realise both have huge character flaws and its up to you to decide which one is telling the closest to the truth and discover why they acted as they did. We also meet Onnie an anguished teenager (also with a hidden agenda and secrets) and there's Howard, Lizzies dog about whom I became increasingly worried, she is so wrapped up in her grief and obsessions that she misses the fact that the poor animal's obviously suffering himself.
The ending is as clever as the beginning and even though I guessed Onnies secret early on, waiting to see if and how it would be revealed was rewarding enough.
It's creepy and insidious and will have you looking over your shoulder.
When I find myself sneaking my kindle into the loo with me, I know I have found a darn good book. I could reel off a whole string of words to describe it: Twisted, devious, controlling, passionate, lies, calculating, deceitful, vengeful to name but a few.
Twelve months after her husband Zach was killed in a car accident, Lizzie goes to lay flowers at the scene, only to find out that someone has beaten her to it. Who has already left flowers at the scene? It seems she didn’t know as much about Zach as she thought she did, but over the course of the book she is going to discover a lot more about him.
The story is told partly in the present from Lizzie’s perspective, from the moment she goes to the accident site onward, deciding to delve into Zach’s past to try and solve the mystery of the flower giver. As she does this, a string of strange events leaves her doubting what she has been told about Zach’s death. Something is not right, someone is messing with her – or are they? Could her sister and friend be right and it just be that her mind is unsettled because of the grieving process?
It is also told from Zach’s point of view. He tells us the story of how they met and their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the read for anyone else, but Zach’s testimony made chilling reading.
The two strands of the story eventually converge and all the little clues that the author dropped subtly into the book all suddenly make sense. Although my mind had been working overtime trying to piece the puzzle together, I was still surprised by the ending.
This read is highly recommended and I have to thank the publisher for a copy of the book in return for a review.
Lizzie is left traumatized by the death of her husband, Zach. A year on and she still feels unable to deal with life fully. Someone leaves flowers at the place where he died and Lizzie begins to come alive and question who she was married to. Is her husband really dead? What happened to him? Who was he? Slowly we get to know the ins and outs of their meeting and marriage. Through his diaries, we learn about Zach and what really happened to him.
I found this a very absorbing, psychologically disturbing, read. I loved the way the marriage was portrayed and how it was slowly revealed in all its glory. I was marginally disappointed in the ending. The diaries were the highlight for me, as we real sense of Zach and his perspective on the world. Some of the entries sent a chill down my spine. Very cleverly done.
Definitely worth a read. I will have to look out for Sabine Durrant again.
Sabine Durrant's latest novel, Remember Me This Way, is a tense and absorbing psychological thriller. A short but dramatic prologue is an early taster for the drama ahead. The story opens with Lizzie taking flowers to the spot where her husband was killed a year earlier. She's locked in the past and struggling to move on without him. But as it says on the cover, 'behind every perfect life is a perfect lie'.
Lizzie, a rather dowdy librarian meets Zach, a good looking artist, through an Internet dating site. It's an unlikely match and clear from the outset that all is not quite as it seems. The scenes of cosy domesticity are a veneer and the cracks soon show. Zach's controlling nature is immediately apparent, his actions and intentions are increasingly sinister. The intricate and well crafted plot moves along at a fair pace. The narrative structure is simple but very effective as it allows tight control of pace. Events are recounted in turn by both Lizzie and Zach as the story sweeps back and forth between past and present. But the transition is seamless; you just want to keep reading as the tension mounts. It builds page by page and I had no idea how all the threads were going to come together. But they did and in ways I wasn't expecting.
Perceptive and gripping, it's a powerful and compelling exploration of relationships. We think we know the person with whom we share our lives, but do we really?
My thanks to the publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, for a review copy via Netgalley.
on 21 October 2015
Really disappointed with this book. The major plot twist I saw probably 100 pages before it got revealed. The big climax was almost comical, without giving it away, the stakes weren’t exactly high. The ending was very disappointing with far too many events conveniently tied up without feeling authentic. Also, I got frankly annoyed at the way the victim of domestic violence was portrayed at the end as loving her husband because of his violent temper. People who have experienced abuse have enough problems being taken seriously without incorrect stereotypes being reinforced in stories like this, it is far more complex than the book portrayed. I almost stopped reading but by 300 pages I felt I should at least reach the end.
on 24 April 2016
I'd heard good things about this author's latest book (not out yet) from other authors, so thought I'd give an earlier one a go. All I can say is that I presume she gets better. This was dull and sloppily researched and just plain irritating.
The book was narrated in alternate chapters by Lizzie, whose possessive husband, Zach, was killed in a car crash a year ago and Zach, himself, in the form of a diary written in the months leading up to his death. Lizzie keeps feeling that Zach is still alive and following her, breaking into her house, re-arranging things and slowly poisoning her beloved dog. There are so many scenes straight out of Sleeping With The Enemy .....right down to (and this may be a minor spoiler alert) the inclusion of the mother with dementia in a nursing home.
I really struggled to pick the book up and continue, but, presuming it would get better, managed about two thirds until I finally gave up. Lizzie's story was slow, much of it introspective, and I just didn't feel any sympathy for her. She gave her house keys (with beloved dog inside) to a complete stranger, who then seemed to know her way around the house and where everything was kept. (And we were supposed to believe that Zach was possibly still alive and moving stuff around......hmmm.) Zach's narration was better - repeating scenes we'd already heard about from Lizzie, but with his OCD/ultra-possessive spin on things. He obviously had more secrets than than a Who Shot JR script but had managed to keep all of them from his wife.
The fact that Zach kept buying designer clothes, Farrow and Ball paint, etc. on Lizzie's school librarian salary was a bit far-fetched. Also, no head teacher on the planet would know that OFSTED 'are coming in the next couple of weeks.' A school would generally know if they are coming to the top of the list for a visit, but NO ONE knows until lunch time the day before. And no school would be allowed a dog within 3 locked doors of children. Nit picky? Maybe, but the whole thing was unrealistic and I just couldn't be bothered any more.
on 31 August 2014
After reading other reviews I was very keen to read this novel but unfortunately was disappointed. First, the prose style is rather bland, especially noticeable having just read THE GOLDFINCH and STONER.
Secondly, I found the plot laboured and predictable. It uses the same structure as GONE GIRL - alternating chapters from the point of view of the main characters - but to nothing like the same effect. This is mostly because these characters are so one note. They remains much the same throughout the novel, with little development or insight.
The plot I found irritating rather than intriguing. It was one idea stretched over many pages. The few twists are predictable - given how few characters there are and that there are bound to be twists and turns, it is pretty obvious what they will be (apart from perhaps one).
But mostly it was the thinness of the characters that bothered me. The female protagonist so passive it grates after a while. I understand there is an attempt here to describe why some women become victims, but this feels lifted from reference books rather than based on any genuine insight. The problem is that the novelist wants to be insightful but she is also writing in the first person, so that any insights there are seem at odds with the character herself. In other novels, there are gaps left which readers fill in for themselves - they realise the narrator is unreliable and can see through the story he/she is telling, to the truth. This novel does not manage to pull that off, I feel.
I also found the lead character unbelievably stupid at times. For example, she is a librarian at a school. One of the problems she faces in the story is trying to guess the password on a laptop. This is a pivotal part of the plot - when she does, the mystery is revealed. Yet all she does is tap in some guesses. Surely she would look up how to break into a computer without knowing the password? She's a librarian - she would know how to go about this. She works in a school - surely there would be an IT dept that could help? I just Googled it - pages and pages of advice in under 15 seconds.
This may seem a small point but it is symptomatic of the lazy plotting which I feel fills this book.
Finally, the end was a great disappointment for me. I don't want to spoil the end (and I know you'll want to rush out and buy it after my review!) but I was very let down.
So I am afraid I can't say I would recommend this. But THE GOLDFINCH on the other hand ... I thought that was a work of genius!
I bought this after reading a later book by Sabine. Always good to find a new author who delivers, with a back catalogue to explore.
Watching, stalking, manipulating, Zach is a presence who hovers as a ghost, a revenant, throughout the book. He was killed in Cornwall, in a car accident, just after Lizzie had 'dumped' him by letter. Such a violent death, his car driving headlong into a tree and bursting into flames. Lizzie is a nice, kind unassuming girl. She never expected to fall in love with such a character, an artist who had a history of cruel unhappiness, only assuaged by his relationship with her. He said.
A year later Lizzie feels she can face the past again. Zach's studio, his cottage 'Gulls' has been waiting for her to sort out. However, someone has got there before her, even to the site of the crash. The tension racks up as Lizzie begins to feel that Zach's death might not be the end of him. His stories told to her begin to unravel.
I was really thrilled by this story, constantly on my toes wondering, although I found the passages about Hector, their dog very worrying indeed!
on 28 June 2015
Sadly this book was very boring and it didn't go anywhere. The tension was built up and then dropped down again. I like strong female characters and although Lizzie had potential she didn't move forward and she enjoyed the 'victim' role too much.