Baby Doll

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton is a psychological thriller about what happens after a young girl, Lily, escapes from the basement where she has been held captive and abused for years. It describes her escape and arrival home and what happens next. In theory, the premise sounds good…

However, I have to say I really did not enjoy this book. Surprisingly it has received lots of positive reviews, but I personally cannot understand why. Firstly, the plot really does not go anywhere: it jumps between describing one fairly mundane day in great detail and then skipping between important events as if they don’t matter. The writing is repetitive and obsessed with ideas that don’t particularly matter to the plot.

Worst of all, I think, is the trivialisation of the subject matter. It focuses less on the psychological impact of Lily’s ordeal but more on the petty jealousies between the two sisters, their mother’s affair, and Lily’s new haircut!

Not a book I’d recommend; I almost didn’t finish it. There are far better books out there: I’d suggest reading ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue instead.

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Close to Home by Cara Hunter

At the moment I’m really enjoying crime books and Close to Home was recommended to me. I enjoyed the fast paced plot and the focus on the police investigation, although there was some quite disturbing content.

It tells the story of the disappearance of 8 year old Daisy Mason from her family home during the night of a party. Her parents are distraught and want her found but as DI Adam Fawley investigates he knows that more often than not it is someone close to a child who is responsible in these cases. As the case unfolds we learn more about her home life and discover that everything might not be as it seems.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that this was more of a police procedural type story which focused on the investigation. I also found the various revelations to be well-timed, if a little sensational and dramatic. There are some fantastic twists which I definitely didn’t see coming, although I’m not entirely sure what I make of the ending.

A fast paced crime novel, with some disturbing themes and upsetting content, but great if you’re into crime fiction.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine had topped bestseller lists and won its category in the 2017 Costa book awards. And on reading it, it’s easy to see why it is such a popular book. It is both challenging and fast-paced, sad and uplifting.

The story is told entirely in first person from Eleanor’s point of view. She lives her life by the same routine each day: travel to work on the bus, a meal deal and the crossword in her lunch-break, home at the same time, the same dinner each evening, and 2 bottles of vodka every weekend. In fact, she is not completely fine, and her life is one of loneliness and depression. She makes some small changes and begins to discover a friendship in an unlikely place. All this cannot stop the horrors of her past overwhelming her, but it just might enable her to come out of her isolated existence eventually.

It is crucial that we are told this story from Eleanor’s point of view. It very quickly becomes apparent that she is quite an unusual character but by bringing the reader into her mind we are able to see the way she views life and empathise with it. This story made me cry but also felt very hopeful too and I felt that its key message was that of friendship.

It was a fantastic book, but one that is hard to describe… all I can say is that I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it.

It’s Always The Husband by Michele Campbell

I love a good psychological thriller for a bit of escapism. I’ve read some fantastic ones over the past couple of years and they really keep you on your toes, as well as generally being quite quick reads.

It’s Always the Husband tells the story of 3 college roommates: Jenny, Aubrey and Kate, who couldn’t be more different, yet are best friends despite it all. A terrible incident occurs during their freshman year that still haunts them 20 years later. When one of them ends up dead on her 40th birthday the police assume her husband is responsible, but are they looking in the right place?

What I really enjoyed about this story was that it definitely contained plenty of red-herrings and twists, right up until the ending (which I hadn’t worked out at all!). However, there were other parts I wasn’t so keen on. For one, none of the characters were likeable at all. I understand that in real life people have challenges and aren’t perfect, but the sheer level of corruption, misery and drug addiction did at times feel a little too much to me.

However, it was a story that I read in about 3 sittings as I was desperate to discover who the killer was, so on that side it did not disappoint.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I have been focusing lately on reading some modern classics that have always been on my ‘to read’ list and Rebecca is the next book that I’ve always felt like I should read, yet never managed to get around to. I do have to warn you though that this review does contain major spoilers.

It’s taken me a few days to write this review as Rebecca was not at all what I was expecting and it’s taken me some time to get my head around what exactly I thought about the story. Firstly I will say that I massively enjoyed reading it; I love stories from unreliable first person narrators and Rebecca certainly told an interesting and challenging story.

The unnamed narrator marries widower Maxim de Winter early on in the narrative, after meeting him in Monte Carlo. To say she is naive is an understatement, and she soon becomes obsessed with the thought of his seemingly-perfect first wife, Rebecca. When she arrives at his home, Manderley, it becomes clear that she is not the only one obsessed with the memory of Rebecca, as the story is dominated by her character, despite her death in an accident nearly a year ago. Most unsettling is the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who cannot let the memory of Rebecca go.

Then, in a dramatic twist, a shipwreck leads to the discovery of a body underwater which allows the narrator to discover the truth: Rebecca was not flawless or perfect, and her husband has been keeping a major secret from her.

What I found really interesting was that I was expecting a love story, or a story where I would feel pity for the new Mrs de Winter who had been pushed out of the happiness of marriage by the memory of a dead woman. However, this novel was nowhere near that simple and each character contained their own flaws, and none more so than Maxim de Winter. In this character we find a master manipulator who is not only a murderer but who also somehow manages to paint himself as the victim. It is an extraordinary story as it is revealed that character after character works out the truth yet somehow most manage to forgive or even cover for him.

And none more so than his wife, who actually becomes his accomplice once she discovers the gruesome truth. Perhaps it is a sign of her naivety or the skill with which he manipulates those around him, as she covers for him repeatedly, and sees him as the innocent party. As I read this story I could not help but feel some pity for Rebecca who would forever be seen as a monster, while her husband walked free from the dreadful murder that he committed. The ending felt wonderfully ominous though, and I could not help but think that the destruction of Manderley was symbolic of the narrator’s future with her husband: it could not be a happy one with a man like that for a husband.