Little Black Lies – Sharon Bolton [REVIEW]

I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

I actually finished reading this book over a week ago now, but I’ve been so busy with my latest MA assignment I thought I’d wait and post it as this week’s review. I really enjoyed this book, but I have to say the enjoyment hasn’t lasted much. It’s one of those books I enjoyed reading, but which left no real impression on me in the end.

little black liesTitle: Little Black Lies

Author: Sharon Bolton

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Bantam Press (2 July 2015)

Language: English


What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?

Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

I’m not a huge fan of the title, here, but I really like the concept of this novel. I mean, your best friend kills your kids? WOAH. But, then, I expected there to be murder involved (Amazon’s & NetGalley’s new blurbs are clearer on this than the one I read, where it was more ambiguous), and the fact that it was an accidental death gives the novel a whole different feel. I’m not saying it was bad, because I do enjoy a novel that explores guilt and more psychological stuff too, but it just wasn’t what I expected.

What I liked:

1. The Characters

As always, Sharon Bolton has created a cast of completely believable characters. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to gel with the protagonist at first, but after a few chapters I really felt for her. I liked her a lot – and I was actually disappointed when the POV switched away from her (probably because this didn’t happen until about halfway through the novel and I wasn’t expecting it).

2. The Premise

I think this idea is really neat. Take a couple of unrelated incidents (the death of Catrin’s children and the sudden disappearance of a little boy on the island) and weave them into a tale that is interconnected, drawn together by grief and mystery and determination. I liked the idea a LOT, and thought Bolton worked really hard to bring all these separate elements together. However, I also had a few problems with it in the end (there may be spoilers ahead).

What I didn’t like:

1. The Execution

I think my biggest problem with this novel is what felt like a lack of commitment. Not from Bolton as such, because I understand why she did what she did, but from the characters involved. Catrin opens the novel planning to kill her best friend. But unfortunately, being inside her head, I was fairly convinced from the outset she wouldn’t go through with it – and (spoilerspoilerSPOILER) I wasn’t wrong. The problem, really, was that I liked Catrin too much. Yes, she was flawed. She was. But did I think she was truly capable of murdering her ex-best friend in cold blooded revenge? Nope. Not even for a second. Even when the characters around her thought she’d do it.

I guess really I expected something grittier, given the tone and the way the novel starts. And really, what I got wasn’t what I thought. It wasn’t as gritty, wasn’t as hopeless or upsetting. And the ending was really far too happy (although the fangirl in me was very happy with the romantic outcome). Still, well worth the read because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good dramatic guilt-ridden tale about redemption?

2. Multiple POVs

This is probably a personal thing, but recently I’ve been liking novels with static points of view. I like novels where you’re so entrenched in one person’s perspective that you forget that others exist – and this novel isn’t one of those. This is building on what I said earlier, but I guess I wouldn’t have minded the POV switches so much if I’d seen them coming, or been warned that this was going to happen. But I was halfway through the novel and all of a sudden I was in Callum’s head – and then Rachel’s. And really I just preferred Catrin. =P

Anyway, I did enjoy this novel, but ultimately I think I felt a bit cheated. I know dead children is not something to want when reading any sort of book – but I think I wanted something more than what I got. Like, an actual murder or something. There was too much coincidence and not enough investigation. But, in any case, if you go into it knowing what to expect I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I think I was just coloured by my reading of Bolton’s other novels and not really knowing what to expect with this one (having not read a good blurb, haha).



Little Black Lies is due for release on July 2nd 2015 and is currently available for pre-order.


Motivation Monday: Writing Prompt #1

Today I’m not going to give you a prose- or poetry-writing prompt, but a character prompt. Just to get you thinking. So, my thought for the day is:

If your character (or I suppose you) had to eat only one meal for the rest of their natural life – breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks – what meal would they choose?

Why? How hard is it for them to choose? Do they regret their choice?

I’m sure my detective Cassiopeia Mars would choose toast with butter – because she’s boring that way and can’t get enough of fresh bread (and basically eats it with every meal anyway!) I don’t think the choice would be very hard, but Cassie would probably agonise over it afterwards. Forever.

So how about you?

Image source: [x]

The Doll Maker – Richard Montanari [REVIEW]

It’s review day!

Today I’m reviewing The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari. I received an ARC through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

Okay guys, this book is very cool. I can always tell when I’m reading a book by an experienced author as opposed to a debut, and Montanari is a classic example of why you don’t always have to read an author from the beginning to enjoy them. I LOVED this book, even though it’s #8 in the series – so don’t let that put you off!

doll makerTitle: The Doll Maker

Author: Richard Montanari

Paperback: 496 pages

Publisher: Sphere (9 April 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0751549339

ISBN-13: 978-0751549331


Mr Marseille is polite, elegant, and erudite. He would do anything for his genteel true love Anabelle. And he is a psychopath.

A quiet Philadelphia suburb. A woman cycles past a train depot with her young daughter. And there she finds a murdered girl posed on a newly painted bench. Strangled. Beside her is a formal invite to a tea dance in a week’s time.

Seven days later, two more young victims are discovered in a disused house, posed on painted swings. At the scene is an identical invite. This time, though, there is something extra waiting for Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.

A delicate porcelain doll. It’s a message. And a threat.

With Marseille and Anabelle stalking the city, Detectives Byrne and Balzano have just seven days to find the link between the murders before another innocent child is snatched from its streets.

So what did I like about this novel? Why did I enjoy it so much? Let me just start by saying that it would take me an age to list everything I liked, so we’ll settle with just a few big things.

What I Liked:

1. Byrne & Balzano

Montanari’s detectives are stellar. Both are completely separate people with their own lives. They are completely real and completely 100% believable, to the point where I felt I knew their families like they were my friends’. Byrne is the more experienced detective of the two, but the pair have been working together so long that they are in sync and well-tuned to one another. Byrne’s relationship with Balzano was something I cherished while reading; knowing that they had each others’ backs made the novel’s foray into the creepy that much more enjoyable because I knew that they were looking out for each other and I, as the reader, could relax in the knowledge that if anybody was going to solve the crime, it was them. Byrne is warm-hearted and determined, and Balzano is shrewd and loving, all qualities I love in my detectives!

2. Bad guys

I have a feeling (from snooping through other Amazon reviews) that Montanari has a certain skill for writing the baddies. And if that’s the case, then this novel is no exception. Our killers Mr Marseille and Annabelle are so damn creepy it’s unreal – something that few other crime authors have made me say. They live in another world, one of tea parties and etiquette, documented with the same care and attention with which they treat their victims.

It probably helps that I’ve always been fascinated by doll collectors and old dolls, and I find them spooky at the best of times (I have ever since I was a kid), but saying that, I’ll give credit to Montanari for tapping into a common horror trope for his crime fiction. I mean, a lot of crime I read tends to fall kind of heavy-handed, with a gory crimey mess for the detectives to investigate. And that’s fine, that’s enjoyable, but there’s something about the creepy, haunting and the spooky that is even more enjoyable. Especially when our detectives are more than a bit creeped out themselves.


3. Story/plot

As I said above, I love dolls. That was what made me request this book in the first place. But scanning the summaries of Montanari’s other novels I can see that plot is something that this author does very well. Everything is planned and coordinated perfectly, all the pieces falling into place with expert ease. I would actually be intrigued to read Montanari’s first novel to see whether this is a skill that has grown over time, because boy am I impressed. If I could learn to plot 1/10th as well as this, I’d die a happy girl. Hats off to you, sir!


Can you see? This book has me crazy! I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like. This novel was spooky and plotted with master skill, with characters I loved and villains I loved to hate. Amazing.

What I Disliked:

Erm, nothing? Actually nothing. That’s insane. Mr Montanari, you have rendered me as close to speechless as I’ve ever been. Thank you!

Please, please, go out and buy this book. Sure, read the others first if you must (I’m sure they’re just as good, and I’m going out to buy them now), but don’t put this one off. It’s amazing! Plus, right now on Amazon UK it’s part of the 3 books for £10 deal, so you really can’t go wrong.



Inspirational Images #15 “Through the Trees”

I know I post a lot of these woodland images, but I think they’re really beautiful. Just look at the haunting quality, imagine the things these trees might have seen in their time…

Through the trees

[Click image for source]

Optional Writing prompt:

Write me a 500 word story set on this road – start to finish set on this road. You cannot, for any reason, leave this path. Why? And, go.


As always, feel free to post anything you write in the comments below!

The Ladies of the House – Molly McGrann [REVIEW]

Thanks to Katie Green at Pan Macmillan/Picador. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Having browsed through a few of the Amazon reviews available for this book, I’m seeing a theme emerging and an agreement with some of the points I am about to make. I think a lot of people were a bit disappointed with this book, and currently its average rating is only 3.6 stars (3 stars on Goodreads). Some of the reviews are a bit harsh, but I can see why there is such a mixture of opinions.

Ladies of the HouseTitle: The Ladies of the House

Author: Molly McGrann

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (26 Mar. 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 144727475X

ISBN-13: 978-1447274759


On a hot July day, three elderly people are found dead in a dilapidated house in Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakable feeling that she is somehow to blame.

How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house…

I don’t really know what I expected from this novel, but the story itself was a little convoluted and a bit removed from my expectations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The novel tells the stories, primarily, of Rita and Annetta, high-class prostitutes who are still living in the brothel they have called home. Now it’s just a house, and they live there alone with Joseph (the son of the brothel’s leading lady and its proprietor). One of these women suffers from dementia, and the other is dying. Through a series of vignettes we get a sense of their lives, of who they are and how they have come to be living in this house together, even into old age. I think this novel is what I’d call, jokingly, a “Coming of AGE” novel. A good idea, just not what I was expecting.

What I liked:

1. The past

Some of the scenes set in the characters’ pasts are the most interesting. Although I like the retrospective telling of the story, the idea that these characters have continued to age and grow after their experiences, I found myself better captured by the scenes where Rita and Annetta were young, and where they were still struggling with the way their lives were unfolding. I felt trapped with Annetta in the dark world she had come from, and I felt sympathy for the young Rita who could never seem to get what she wanted most: human connection.

2. The writing

Molly McGrann writes beautifully, and I did enjoy her descriptions and turns of phrase. There were sections of the book that were very adept at making me feel very strongly, but sadly there was not enough of this beautiful writing to overshadow the problems I had with the plot.

What I didn’t like:

1. Older Rita

I quite liked young Rita. She was sparky and angry and clever, if vain and selfish. But old Rita – she is all her negative qualities multiplied by five. I understand that this is probably the point, and that I’m probably missing some big trick, but old Rita really just didn’t do it for me, and by the end of the novel I have to confess I wasn’t sad that she was dead. Oops!

2. The ending

Endings are a big a deal, and this one just didn’t cut it for me. I felt that the climax of the novel happened too late, while simultaneously being too short. At the end I felt a little cheated and dazed and I had to spend a good twenty minutes just thinking things through – but not necessarily in a good way.


The novel is perhaps a little ambitious, telling too many characters’ stories in less than 300 pages. I think it could have benefitted from fewer intersecting story-lines and more focus on each one. For instance, given that the blurb makes mention of this “unshakable feeling” experienced by Marie Gillies about the deaths in the house, I think I expected the book to explore her guilt or something more than it does. Marie, for me, was nothing more than a passing fancy. And as for Marie’s mother, and the scenes with Joseph… I actually had trouble remembering Joseph’s name, so I don’t think they really did anything for me.

But some of the scenes are wonderfully captivating and the writing really is beautiful. It’s only a short book, and I did enjoy it. I actually read it in one sitting. Definitely worth a read but perhaps ultimately not a favourite.



Don’t Turn Around – Caroline Mitchell [REVIEW]

I received an ARC of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I’d been looking forward to reading this book, and when I managed to get a copy through Netgalley that was even more awesome. I was so excited! There’s something really unique about the premise of this story – or at least I haven’t read one like it before so I was super psyched to delve right in. I actually finished reading this in a couple of days, which we know is usually a good sign.

don't turn aroundTitle: Don’t Turn Around

Author: Caroline Mitchell

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 1606 KB

Print Length: 277 pages

Publisher: Bookouture (24 April 2015)

Language: English



Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him.

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked. What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves.

A heart-stopping supernatural thriller to engross fans of Rachel Abbott, Paul Finch and James Oswald.

Don’t Turn Around is a splendid piece of fiction from emerging author Caroline Mitchell. I was initially attracted to this novel because of the cover (isn’t is fantastic to see some bright colours on crime covers? I love it!) and then the premise had me hooked. There’s something about killings in the past and copycats and legacies that really pulls me in, so I was excited for this one. And while this isn’t a flawless novel, there is a lot of good in it, and I will be looking forward to the next novels in the series.

What I liked:

1. The protagonist & her partner

Jennifer Knight is a whole lot of fun. She’s verging on OCD, tough, troubled, and had a rough childhood that she’s trying not to let bother her – and she’s determined to live up to her mother’s legacy. I like that. While Jennifer is certainly not perfectly written, she’s a cracking debut detective with a lot of room to manoeuvre. She’s sparky and has a nice relationship with her partner and friend Will.

I loved their relationship. Will is adorable, and I think Jennifer and he have a good balance of the tough and the sensitive, which is always nice. I’m glad we’re going to see more of how these two interact, because it’s definitely going somewhere good!

2. Her relationship with her nephew

I love that Jennifer’s greatest love in life is basically her nephew. I think that this is actually pretty unique and I felt it gave Jennifer’s character a lot of depth and made her seem realistic. Josh is also a good source of conflict because Jennifer often wishes she could mother him, which makes her sister unhappy.

3. The paranormal element

This is something I didn’t really think about when reading the synopsis but it ended up being my favourite thing about the novel. ‘Paranormal’ and ‘Detective’ just go together like ‘Victoria’ and ‘sponge’ – maybe not the first thing you think of (well, it is for me, but whatever, I just love cake ok?), but still a tasty combination! And handled very well with a lot of passion from Mitchell.

4. The bad guy

Frank is super damn creepy. And the idea of meeting him in a dark alley really freaks me out so we won’t talk too much about him… But his POV was a good addition to this novel and it really added some depth. Yes.

What I didn’t like:

1. The POV Switches

The POV moves about a lot. We sometimes start chapters in one POV and then suddenly we’re in somebody else’s and it’s a bit jarring for the reader. We don’t need to see into so many minds, honestly, because Jennifer’s is interesting enough! I did like seeing Frank’s thoughts and motivations, but I think that in any future Jennifer Knight novels I’d be happiest if Jennifer was the focus of the novel, carrying more weight throughout the story. In this novel she is still the primary protagonist, but I sometimes felt that she didn’t get the page-time she deserved. Still, not a deal-breaker, and something that can definitely be improved on in later novels if the author so wishes.

2. The ‘Ethan’ thing

[Spoilers ahoy] I didn’t think it was necessary for the romantic tension that we get between Ethan and Jennifer. Especially given that Ethan’s role in the novel is most importantly to introduce Jennifer into the world of paranormal investigation at the end, which I think would be achievable and perhaps more believable if he didn’t attempt to climb into her pants. Of course he’s also a general source of conflict, always good, and we also think he might be the bad guy, again not bad – but he’s successfully set up to be such a dodgy guy I actually didn’t understand why Jennifer would be so happy to go into business with him in the end.

But I am just grumpy because I can’t write romance very well and so I tend to dislike romantic entanglements that make me cringe (not because they’re badly written, just because they’re embarrassing) and Jennifer’s grope in the dark with Ethan definitely made me think, Oh Jennifer, NO! haha. So yeah, I think Ethan is a fun character and a good point of conflict with Jennifer, but for me his presence would be better served as platonic – at least for book one. I was more focused on Will. Because he’s adorable.

Now that pairing I DO ship. ❤

3. The ending

The ending (not going to spoiler you, I promise) was something that I wasn’t 100% about, but it didn’t necessary affect my overall impressions of the novel. It seemed a bit neat, really, with all of the loose ends being tied into perhaps too perfect a bow – but I didn’t DISLIKE it so much as I guess I just prefer my endings rawer and grittier. Still it sets itself up nicely for the rest of a hopefully long series, so I don’t really have too many complaints.

More DC Knight please, Caroline!



Don’t Turn Around is currently available for pre-order (99p!) and has a release date of April 24th 2015.

Inspirational Images #14 “The Woods”

into the woods

[Click image for source]

I’ve been thinking a lot about woodlands and forests recently. It’s all wrapped up in my newest novel idea. I won’t say much, but isn’t there something fantastical about this whole space? The lighting is warm but casts strange shadows… You never know what’s around the next bend.

I love it.

Work, work, work…

Despite it being very quiet in the office this week, I’ve actually been incredibly busy. We had a staff meeting with a bunch of new goals, so I’m scurrying around with my head down at the moment. Funnily enough it’s made me realise how much blogging I actually so during my working hours. Oops.

So yesterday would have been my normal Murder, They Wrote! day. Luckily I did get ahead during the long Easter weekend, but I still have two books I need to write reviews for. Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell and The Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann. Look out for those soon!

I’m getting a new puppy this weekend. I’m so excited, but I also know she will eat into my blogging, writing and reading time so I’m trying to prepare for that. It’s going to be a bit hectic once she arrives. Still, I might post a picture or two.

What is currently slowing your blogging progress? And how do you get yourself back on track?

And while we’re at it: What are you favourite literary pet names? I’m curious. Our puppy already has a name all picked out, but we’ve been agonising for weeks.

Death in the Rainy Season – Anna Jaquiery [REVIEW]

Thanks to Anna Jaquiery, Sophie Orme, Sam Eades & PanMacmillan for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’m normally really boring when it comes to the books I tend to choose. I like books set in a few choice locations (boring alert: England, USA) and I have a horrible habit of sticking pretty rigidly to that. But I really am trying to be better, so when I saw Death in the Rainy Season (would you look at the awesome colours on that cover??) I figured this would be the perfect chance for me to try something new.

death in the rainy seasonTitle: Death in the Rainy Season

Author: Anna Jaquiery

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Mantle; Main Market Ed. edition (9 April 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1447244451

ISBN-13: 978-1447244455


Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the rainy season. When a French man, Hugo Quercy, is found brutally murdered, Commandant Serge Morel finds his holiday drawn to an abrupt halt. Quercy – dynamic, well-connected – was the magnetic head of a humanitarian organisation which looked after the area’s neglected youth.

Opening his investigation, the Parisian detective soon finds himself buried in one of his most challenging cases yet. Morel must navigate this complex and politically sensitive crime in a country with few forensic resources, and armed with little more than a series of perplexing questions: what was Quercy doing in a hotel room under a false name? What is the significance of his recent investigations into land grabs in the area? And who could have broken into his home the night of the murder?

Becoming increasingly drawn into Quercy’s circle of family and friends – his adoring widow, his devoted friends and bereft colleagues – Commandant Morel will soon discover that in this lush land of great beauty and immense darkness, nothing is quite as it seems . . .

A deeply atmospheric crime novel that bristles with truth and deception, secrets and lies: Death in the Rainy Season is a compelling mystery that unravels an exquisitely wrought human tragedy.

Death in the Rainy Season follows Parisian detective Commandant Serge Morel, beginning when his holiday is cut short, as he investigates the murder of the well-connected and well-meaning Hugo Quercy. Anna Jaquiery does a fantastic job of capturing the atmosphere of Phnom Penh, of Cambodia, of some place more colourful and interesting than I have ever been to, which was an excellent introduction to novels not set in countries I’ve visited. This plot of the novel is carefully laid out, with an ending that is not surprising yet still satisfying, and with characters that seem sturdy and consistent – always something I look for in a novel.

What I liked:

1. Setting

Yep, you got me on this one! I loved the setting. It was so oppressive and beautiful at the same time; the endlessly heavy rains make everything seem closed in and at once more vibrant, and we get a real sense of Cambodia through Morel as a sort of outsider. Jaquiery gives readers a glimpse into the secret lives of her characters through these heavy rains – we see some people love the weather and some can’t stand it, and I’m always one for pathetic fallacy so this was something I loved.

Jaquiery does a fabulous job of instilling a sense of vibrancy throughout the whole novel, so when any of her characters is without this vibrancy, whether due to depression or grief etc., it becomes all the more obvious. It’s fantastic. I got a real buzz reading this novel, and I have to admit I may have been bitten by the travel bug…

2. Description

As I said about setting, Jaquiery really is an accomplished writer. Her descriptions are fabulous, really building the novel for me. To be honest, the plot could have been much less interesting and I think I would have still enjoyed the novel, all because a few choice words from our author had me drooling about the things you can do with the English language. Awesome!

3. Characters

All of these characters felt like complete people to me. They weren’t constructs to forward plot or provide conflict – they were real people. And this is something I feel like we writers always struggle with, so hats off to you Author! Good job with this one. I felt like I was peeking into peoples’ lives, which of course appealed to the voyeur in me (and all of you, too, I imagine). It really is wonderful to find a novelist who can truly make me believe in their characters. I know for a fact that Morel is out there right now, somewhere in the world, sipping coffee and thinking hard, and that’s kind of spooky.

What I didn’t like:

1. POV

One of the few things I had difficulty with in this novel was the point of view, and the number of characters who are given narrative space. This might just be because I was reading the second novel in the series without having read the first, but for me there was a lot of jumping around between different characters’ thoughts. It was all very well written, and definitely not a problem, it’s just that the novel became a bit disjointed because of this. I didn’t get enough of an introduction to Morel early on because we were busy hopping between the other characters for the sake of plot.

However I definitely appreciated this character insight as the novel progressed because it gave me, as a reader, a good chance to figure out the crime for myself, and I did enjoy seeing into the minds of all of these very different personalities. I’ll reserve judgement about this in its entirety until I’ve had a thumb through the first novel, but a bit more Morel earlier on would have cemented my love for him right away.

In any case, I enjoyed this novel a lot. I’m ready to return to my comfort zone of UK/US-centric books now, but the good experience has opened me up to more settings in the future, so that’s a WIN!



Death in the Rainy Season is currently available for pre-order. It will be released on April 9, 2015.

Room – Emma Donoghue [REVIEW]

This was another book I’d been meaning to read for ages. And thanks to another classmate it was bumped to the top of my list when she let me borrow her copy. I’m so glad! This was a fantastic book and I read it in maybe a day and a half. I stayed up way too late reading it, and didn’t want it to end.

roomTitle: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue

Paperback: 412 pages

Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (7 Jan. 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0330519026

ISBN-13: 978-0330519021


Jack is five. He lives with his Ma. They live in a single, locked room. They don’t have the key.

Jack and Ma are prisoners.

Things I loved:

1. POV & Voice

This book is pretty unique, I think. We’re always taught on my MA about the importance of point of view and voice, and how these things can make or break a novel. I’ve really struggled with character voice in the past – it’s something I’m still working on now – and I think this novel is a perfect example of not only HOW to write voice, but WHY you should write voice effectively and the affect it has on the novel.

Jack is five. His entire life is Room; he has never left the room, does not really know about the world outside it. He sees things on TV, and knows that some things are Real and some things are Not Real. But his whole world is shattered when his Ma reveals that actually there is a world out there. And that the two of them are prisoners.

The POV is firmly inside Jack’s head. He doesn’t understand a lot of what is happening to him and his Ma, and he spends a lot of the novel rationalising things that other characters in books have never had to deal with. And because he has such a funny, sincere voice, you really truly feel for him every second – even when he’s making his mother’s life difficult, even when he is acting in a way which you, as a reader, find difficult to comprehend. Jack’s love for his Ma is overwhelming, and it fuels the feeling of the whole novel. And it’s wonderful.

Voice-wise, Donoghue takes certain techniques to the extreme – and does it well. Because Jack has never left the Room, he thinks about everything in terms of Room and how it all fits together. He knows that the sun exists, but thinks the moon only exists when he can see it; his entire world revolves around the activities his Ma has invented to keep him fit and intellectually stimulated; he thinks that Bed and Wardrobe and Rug are his friends, and he is completely obsessed with Dora the Explorer. And his voice reflects this. The way he speaks, the way he puts sentences together vs the way he formulates his thoughts – basically, his internal monologue is the same as the way he speaks, and only his Ma truly understands him. They have such a special bond, a bond that is more than language and more than actions, and one that has been captured brilliantly.

And of course, the clever thing is that the reader understands more than Jack. Jack makes reference to Old Nick coming to see his mother at night, and the “beep” sound that accompanies it as the electronic lock on the door announces it opening – and we as readers infer that Old Nick is the one holding them captive, and that he is probably Jack’s father. And even though Jack doesn’t understand any of this, we can guess it. And that engagement is exactly what I love in novels, so this alone is fantastic.

I couldn’t do justice to the novel by trying to describe all the things Donoghue has done in order to achieve Jack’s voice, but I’d recommend reading the novel to see how well it’s done.

2. Concept

The concept is brilliant in itself. Without the voice mentioned above I’m not sure the concept is particularly unique, but when combined with the way Jack is written, it’s great. Quite often in books about kidnapping, you get one perspective – that of the kidnap victim. But this is not Ma’s story, it’s Jack’s. He, too, is a victim. But he is not THE victim that everybody thinks about. This book twists your average kidnapping story and upends that. And we get a much more interesting novel because of it.

3. Flow of plot

The story also flows really well. I’d been afraid that a whole novel set in one room might make for a stagnant story, but this isn’t the case. Partially because (spoilers ahoy here so look away now if you don’t want to be spoilered because this is a biggie…..) the novel doesn’t actually take place in just the room. Gasp. I know! I hadn’t expected that either. And because I didn’t actually expect it, it was a surprising twist for me, and it kept me interested. Once they’re out of the room, there’s a whole other gamut of things for them to deal with, and that was really interesting too. Although once they were out of the room, part of me felt a bit like Jack: uncomfortable, out of place, and wishing to be back in the safety of Room. Bizarre, right?

Anyway, this book is great. I’ve rambled and it’s probably not very clear, but I’ve been thinking about this book all week and my thoughts haven’t gotten any clearer. I’m still entrenched in how awesome it was. So, please excuse me, and go out and buy the damn book right now. =D