I was very lucky to be sent a copy of The Book of You by Claire Kendal to review by Mumsnet.
I had never heard of the author before, and had no idea what the book was about. I started off thinking “right, better get started on this so that I can get my review in on time…” I looked at the book and thought to myself, you’re going to have to make sure you read enough each day to finish on time. I needn’t have worried – within a couple of chapters I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down. I carried it everywhere with me, and finished it within a few days.
Clarissa is a single woman in her late thirties, and she’s trying to deal with the unwanted attentions of a work colleague. When she’s called up for jury duty she thinks it’s a godsend – a seven week trial locked in a court, away from work and somewhere that her colleague can’t follow her. She seems to get drawn into the trial though, which centres around a group of men accused of abducting and raping a woman. With everything going on in her own life, she comes into court and sees this woman’s story twisted around on herself – it was her own fault, she consented to sex, she’s lying, she’s mad. She believes she will get the same reception if she goes to the police about her situation.
I thought this book was exquisitely written and I was unable to tell what was coming, all the way through. I didn’t particularly like the main character; she kept fainting and being all weak and rubbish. I suppose if I were in her position, I might behave in the same way though! I just kept wanting to scream at her, call the bloody police! I suppose a lot of people would be scared to go to the police in that situation.
I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, so I won’t tell you what happens but basically, she’s stalked and it gets more and more terrifying as she finds out more about her stalker and what she believes he may be capable of. There’s a point in the book where you get to the end of a chapter and think oh, that would make a good ending… but wait, there’s still a fair chunk of book left to go! At this point, you begin to turn every page thinking how can there be this much book left… what’s going to happen? And then it happens, and I totally did not see it coming.
I have to say I was disappointed by the actual ending of this book. Having thought the book had ended and then got back into the storyline, when it ended I actually turned the page to check there wasn’t another chapter. I think it leaves a massive loose end that I would have preferred to see tied up – though I’m not sure how it could have been tied up without ruining the entire story. Still, I was left feeling a bit cheated by the way it seemed to end in the middle of a story – in the middle of a sentence, almost.
I enjoyed the way this book leans heavily on fairy stories. Not the pink, glittery Disney sort we all see these days, but the original Grimm and Andersen fairy stories – the ones that were actually pretty dark and terrible. I remember reading the story of Bluebeard when I was fairly young and thinking, “what the hell is this doing in a book of fairy tales!” The stories are referred to a lot throughout the book; Clarissa compares herself to the characters, and her stalker sends her chilling notes referring to the stories and characters.
I also enjoyed the story around the court room; it made it more interesting to have two different stories going on in the book. The people Clarissa meets in the court don’t know her, so they don’t really notice that she’s behaving differently as she becomes more and more stressed. It’s also interesting to see how she is affected by how the case plays out in court; by this point she’s really suffering with stress and is seeing everything from the point of view of someone going to the police to report something they can’t prove. She sees the way the defence lawyers twist everything in the court room, and assumes she would receive the same treatment, were she to make a complaint against her stalker.
Even with the disappointing ending, this book is a fantastic read. To put it into perspective for you, the last book I read took me three weeks to read. This one took me a little more than 3 days, and it was longer. You get to a certain point in it where you just can’t put it down, and I did end up wandering through a train station reading it the other day as I changed platforms! On Friday night I went to bed super early, just to have a chance of reading lots of the book before I got tired. On Saturday evening, I had finished the book and found that I didn’t really feel like getting an early night because I had nothing quite so engaging to read in bed!
If you like your thrillers, this is definitely one for you! But equally, I tend to walk straight past the thrillers in a book shop, and I really enjoyed this one.