24/05/2015

The Disappearance of Emily Marr (by Louise Candlish)

I have very much enjoyed all the novels I have read by Louise Candlish, so I added more to my wishlist and will continue to do so as she publishes more.

I was very pleased to be given ‘The Disappearance of Emily Marr’ last Christmas, and have been reading it over the past week. It’s a story written from the perspective of two women who are living on a small island off the coast of France.

We meet Tabby when she’s almost penniless, having been abandoned by her long-term boyfriend. She’s spent the night with someone who picked her up and gave her the money to return to Paris, but she decides to stop before she gets there and look for work.

Emmie lives in a small house with a spare bedroom. She offers Tabby a room for a low rent, and also helps her to find a job. Tabby and Emmie are both around thirty, and both recovering from broken romances. However, they are very different in personality. Tabby is chatty and happy to talk about everything that’s happened to her, while Emmie is very reserved.

The book alternates between the viewpoints of Tabby and Emily. Tabby’s is told in the third person, taking the story forward, while Emily is writing the story of her past (including her love affair) on her computer. So Emily’s chapters are more thoughtful, well-composed and quite moving, while Tabby’s have rather more action. I found the style slightly confusing at first, but Tabby with her open heartedness, living in the moment, quickly got under my skin. Emily took a bit longer to warm to, but her writing style was almost reminiscent of one of my other favourite authors, Susan Howatch, and I became gradually more and more intrigued.

The two storylines interweave perfectly - Tabby gradually realises that her new friend has a shocking secret, one that has sent her into exile and makes her reluctant to be seen in public. Although it felt a tad slow in places to start with, by the time I was half way through, a dramatic shock occurred and from that point I could scarcely put the book down.

It’s a thoroughly modern book, with insight into how modern media works, and the way social networking can turn something relatively insignificant into a nationwide phenomenon in a very short period. It touches on other issues too, such as the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease on relatives and the divide that still exists in the UK between cliques and those who don’t quite fit in. There’s much more, too. I was particularly impressed that, even though the book was about infidelities and affairs, the bedroom doors were kept firmly shut. If there was bad language, it was appropriate and not excessive.

I didn’t foresee the dramatic turn in the middle of the book, and I didn’t begin to see a change in the storyline that happens towards the end, one which made several things fall into place, and which was so cleverly planned and written that I could hardly believe in it at first.

I would have given the book my unqualified praise, but for one thing: it finishes very abruptly, leaving (in my view) too many threads open. I turned the last page only to find discussion notes (a feature in many books these days, presumably for reading groups) followed by a few questions and answers. One of them asked if the author was going to write a sequel, given the open-ended nature of the book, and she said that she wasn’t, although she said she would be happy to correspond individually with anyone wanting to know how she saw the story continuing.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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