Monday 19 March 2018

Books: 'Mess of secrets' with a big twist

Fiction: Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough Harper Collins €14.99

Talented: Sarah Pinborough
Talented: Sarah Pinborough

Anne Marie Scanlon

At first glance the plot of Behind Her Eyes seems like rackety, third-rate chick lit. Lonely single mother Louise finally meets a man who "gets" her but after a drunken snog he pulls away.

A short while later, to her absolute horror, she discovers that David is not only her new boss, but also married to the extremely beautiful Adele (who puts everyone in mind of Angelina Jolie.)

But this is not chick lit and although it's extremely gripping it's not classic grip lit either.

Pinborough's latest book is a skilful blend of genres which only the most talented writer could carry off.

The action unfolds from the perspectives of both Adele and Louise with flashbacks to Adele's troubled past.

Initially, David and Louise behave as professionals but soon they are having a full-blown affair, facilitated in part by the fact that Louise's young son Adam is on an extended holiday with his father.

Adele is aware of the affair and engineers a meeting with Louise and in no time at all they become best friends.

Louise is torn as she feels genuine love for both David and Adele and her life becomes very complicated. "I'm a mess of secrets."

One thing that unites Louise and Adele is that they both suffer from night terrors. Adele was institutionalised after both her parents died in a house fire and another patient, Rob, passed along his journal which contained a method to overcome the bad dreams.

As Louise practices this method a supernatural element gradually emerges but Pinborough's genius is to make this development seem totally natural.

While Louise is a simple straight-forward character, Adele is just the opposite. The reader knows that she has plans but we are never sure what her motivations are.

She loves her husband obsessively but is he really the nice guy Louise thinks he is? Is Adele a woman living under the yoke of domestic tyranny? Is Louise just another in a long line of women to be used and abused by David? Or is she Adele's victim?

David and Adele share a murky past - the death of Adele's parents was convenient for both of them as they never approved of David, and she was left a very wealthy woman.

As the narrative moves forward the tension keeps building right until the end.

No doubt readers and reviewers alike are going to rave about the massive double-whammy of a twist.

You'll get no argument here, the twist is brilliant, but even more so because the characters, even the unknowable Adele, and the seemingly mercurial David, are so well drawn and real.

I read this book in a fever and could not put it down.

Funnily enough, given that part of the plot is about dreams, I also dreamt about it.

I defy anyone who reads it not to be tempted to attempt 'lucid dreaming.'

If they can actually put the book down for long enough to sleep.


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