Published: 22nd February 2018
Genre: Domestic fiction
Trigger warnings: Psychological abuse, references to domestic violence
Newly married, newly pregnant, Lucy Robin is having trouble remembering the little things. Like what day she’s due to visit her mother. Or where she left her shoes. Or whether she’s left the gas hob on.
Forgetting the little things is annoying, but the more it happens, the more scared she gets. As her world gets smaller, soon both Lucy’s life, and that of her unborn baby, are placed in danger.
But is there something more sinister behind Lucy’s forgetfulness? Her husband doesn’t think so. And Adam always knows best…
This is a book which takes a sensitive topic and explores it in such a comprehensive and profound way, that it prevails over everything else and leaves behind a vivid abiding memory. As a result, we have a powerful story that amounts to an intense and at times unsettling family drama, as opposed to a thriller.
The central theme here is gas-lighting; the manipulation of somebody else by essentially making them question their own sanity. It is a very thorough and sophisticated portrayal, which does not shy away from the emotional impact it has on the victim. Amanda Brooke clearly did her research, and it had quite an effect on me as I was reading.
It would not be a spoiler to reveal the identity of the victim or the abuser in this review, as they are made quite clear in the blurb. Lucy is expecting her first child with her husband Adam, and is a person who takes pride in having a good memory and a high level of conviction. But all of that soon evaporates, and she eventually finds herself doubting her every move.
The entire book is told in a third-person narrative, focusing completely on Lucy as her life gradually spirals out of her control and into the hands of Adam, who concocts discussions they have never had, and spins a convincing web of lies. In some ways I feel that the story would have left an even greater impact had it been written in first-person.
There were moments where I wondered if Lucy was too gullible, or believed Adam’s lies all too easily, but for the most part I put those thoughts aside. Adam was highly manipulative and I was just willing Lucy to understand what was happening and get away from him.
A lot of thrillers contain evil or unlikable characters, but I hated Adam with a burning passion. Of course, that means the author did a good job of capturing the themes of the book! But really, he was just an awful person, and the full extent of his emotional abuse made it a slightly challenging read in places.
Both of the main characters are given a lot of depth, and the way that their families come into the picture and also become affected by Adam’s campaign adds extra weight to the storyline. The way the ending played out was a little bit predictable for me, but that said I really liked the epilogue, which felt very believable.
The writing was very strong throughout, and as mentioned before the topic of gas-lighting was depicted with great detail and skill. My only criticism is that it felt a bit dense and repetitive; maybe the pace of the story could have been slightly quicker or it would have been better if the book contained less pages.
And as for the settings…well most of the action takes place in Liverpool, but its the first book I have ever read that has included Frodsham, a small market town in the UK which is close to my heart.
Overall, this was a powerful book that highlighted a difficult and sensitive topic. I thought it was handled very well, and the depth of the characters brought a lot to it. A slightly faster pace and a less .predictable ending would have helped, but otherwise I thought this one was pretty decent.
A powerful book with an effective storyline. A little too lengthy and repetitive in places, but generally a good read.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5