All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Bed I Made – Lucie Whitehouse

on September 12, 2010

This was one of the books I had ordered in from the library and I finished it in one night while my other half was at work. Main character Kate is on the run. It’s winter and she has retreated down to the Isle of Wight for peace, solitude and safety. Only her father, her brother and her best friend Helen know her location. It is a place she visited as a child, with her father and brother after her mother left. It is a place she associates with happiness, with rebuilding.

{This review is vaguely spoilerish in characters/ending}

On her third day on the island, she watches on the shore as the authorities tow in the boat of a local woman, Alice Frewin. Although no body has been found yet, it’s widely believed that Alice is gone, and at her own hand. Kate realises that she saw Alice on the very first day she spent on the island and spoke to her. From the very beginning Kate is drawn to Alice, and especially drawn into this mystery surrounding her disappearance. She listens at the local newsagent and cafe to the locals, trying to pick up information.

It soon becomes obvious that Kate is fleeing her former boyfriend Richard. Through flashback, usually triggered by Richard’s calls, texts or emails, we revisit how Kate and Richard met, how their relationship formed and how it then started to fall apart. Richard isn’t willing to let Kate go and his constant contact, which wavers between conciliatory and menacing, paints a sinister threat to Kate’s safety. Kate, for the best part, tries to ignore Richard and immerse herself in life on the island. She is a translator and once she finishes the novel she has been translating, she gets a job on the island. She visits a local 2nd hand bookstore and is befriended by the owner who invites her around for a meal. She meets Alice Frewin’s husband Pete and their close friend Sarah. She begins to build a life, and to want to stay on the island when her lease of the little cottage is up, even though she knows that she should keep moving. That it won’t be long before Richard finds her.

This book is a very slow burn, pace-wise. Information is never given quickly and although the scenario with Richard is easily guessed by the reader, it’s quite a while before we get the full picture and evidence of everything he was doing to Kate, the sort of person he was. Much is made of the island itself, the weather, the solitude, the bleakness and the portrayal is wonderful. I really felt like I was there, experiencing that driving rain and wind, the ‘small-town (island) mindedness’, the closing ranks against strangers, people who were not born and bred of the island.

The characters are well done in this novel also – Kate, scarred by the disappearance of her mother, immersing herself in French, forging a career as a translator (her mother was French). The novel makes much of her friendship with Helen, how strong it was before Richard, and how the arrival of Richard put it on incredibly shaky ground. But apart from Helen, she seems to have no other friends and no one else in the novel attempts to try and contact her and see where she is. Her whole life by the start of the book revolved around Richard. He had inserted himself into her life and alienated pretty much everything else until he was all that she had left and when she fled him, she had no one. She refused to go to either her brother in the US, or her father, who had finally found himself a new partner and was happy, preferring to try to heal herself down on the Isle of Wight.

Richard, in my opinion, is equally well done in the way he is portrayed. At first we get Richard’s charm and recklessness, his generosity and intenseness, his work ethic. You obviously know that something isn’t right, but the way his true character unfolds, in that slow way, building tension and fear, hooks you right into the story. The islanders – kind Chris, the tense and haunted Pete, frazzled Sarah, are all interesting additions and colour Kate’s experience on the island. Despite the isolation and the wariness from many, it seems like she fits in better there than she ever did in London.

My only complaint is that such a slow burn adds up to a very rushed ending. And although the ending wasn’t bad, or poorly written, it did come across to me as very rushed compared with the pacing of the rest of the novel. It is literally a graceful arc the whole way through the book leading up to the obvious ending where you know Richard will appear and then when he does it all feels very jerky. After 300 pages of background and build up, the climax is over in less than 10. It felt very stilted and like it didn’t mesh well with the rest of the novel. There was so much invested in the whole portrayal of Richard, the threat of him, that when he finally appeared, it was almost a let down as it was over so quickly and the reader wasn’t given the chance to fully appreciate his controlling, manipulative and abusive nature in person, so to speak.

Despite that, the novel was very enjoyable and easy to read. The pages turned quickly, I carried it around with me for the night, reading while I was cooking dinner, etc and I was invested in the story of Kate and also in the interwoven story of Alice Frewin. I just thought that the ending could’ve definitely added more to the story and increased the tension level to a greater level than it actually did.

7/10

(Book #64 of my 75 Book Challenge)


One response to “The Bed I Made – Lucie Whitehouse

  1. Abby says:

    I read it last night and I agree with you word to word. Lucie Whitehouse’s before we met is one of the most amazing thrillers I’d read. So i thought of trying her other work. I really wish the face-off between Kate and Richard had been written better and the Peter-Kate arc had been given more attention. In spite of that it was a very gripping novel! I hope Lucie comes back soon with a new thriller

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