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Secrets and Lies in the Expat World
on 30 December 2012
Like many a debut novel, The Expats is not without its flaws. It gets off to a slow start, so slow in fact that had I not got this for 20p on Kindle, I may well have given up.
As a serial expat myself and someone who has worked helping other expats readjust to their new life, Kate comes across as a relocation consultant's worst nightmare - a whiny, trailing spouse with way too much time on her hands.
I found the characters very unlikeable and I couldn't understand why Kate just didn't call it a day with Dexter, children or no children. Theirs is a loveless marriage so what was she doing playing along with the move to Europe for so long? Julia and Bill come across as two-dimensional and I don't really care what happens to them.
If you can stick with it and suspend your disbelief, in the end the book does have something useful to say about marriage and relationships - that we all hide secrets from each other.
The action and pace picks up in the second half and it becomes a tightly plotted (if somewhat implausible) read.
There's an over reliance on character exposition in last part of the book which is a little irritating but given the complex nature of the plot may be the only way that readers of commercial fiction will understand what it is that is supposed to have gone on.
The Expats has been skilfully marketed and managed to gain an impressive number of press reviews, some of which raved about it. The most accurate to my mind was the one written in The Washington Post which calls it "a sometimes silly spy tale."