Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I had really high hopes for Force of Nature – from the chilling title to the dramatic cover to the praise it received. I thought the novel would take me no longer than a week to read as I wouldn’t have been able to put it down, in actual fact it took me just over a month to finish it. I felt as though I was constantly waiting for it to get going and the suspension and tension, for me, was too vague and ambiguous therefore I started to lose a bit of interest.

It wasn’t all bad though. The last hundred pages saved the book and was where all the action happened.

Five work colleagues, as part of a team bonding weekend, go into the Australian bush. None of the women partially like each other. There’s Jill Bailey, who’s brother owns the company they work for. Sisters Bree and Beth who on the surface cannot stand each other and the latter is slowing getting her life together after drink and drug problems. There’s Lauren who’s work conscious but it constantly thinking about her anorexic teenage daughter who used to be friends with Alice’s daughter before a big falling out. Alice’s mind is also on her daughter who is the subject of having naked photos posted on the internet supposedly by her ex-boyfriend.

Throughout their weekend there is constant arguing of which route to take, when to stop for food and their personal baggage spills over into the team bonding trip. Following an argument Alice sets off to find her own way back to the lodges and this is where the trouble starts. Lauren chases after Alice and the pair have a huge physical fight about their daughters. Alice hits her head and Lauren leaves Alice, who she believes to be still alive. Bree then goes out to find Alice dead and looks at her bag which has an item marked ‘property of Beth’. To save her sister Bree moves the backpack and removes the item. When Alice doesn’t come back the group go into panic mode.

Woven into the novel is the narrative of the detectives trying to find out what has happened to Alice and the chance that her death might have something to do with the a murderer who has already claimed the lives of three women.

The last hundred pages highlights the social politics of a group of women and the lengths women will go to to defend their family.

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Can You Hear Me? By Elena Varvello

Can You Hear Me? By Elena Varvello

I thought Can You Hear Me was going to pan out completey differently to how the blurb describes the novel.

The blurb focuses on the kidnap of a young girl and the disappearance of a boy. However the book is about the effects of these events on Elia and his father’s involvement in them.

Ettore is a complex man who loses his job and his mental health takes a downward spiral because of this. He disappears for days and when he does come home is aloof and does not speak to his wife or Elia.

This has a huge effect on the family, not least Elia, especially at a sensitive time during his teenage years. His mother is in complete denial about his father’s actions.

So Elia turns to his friend Stefanio’s mother, Anna, for comfort. The two have an enomorous amount of sexual tension but both know entering into an sort of encounter will cause damage to many people.

In between Elia’ s thoughts is the actual event of the kidnap. Although the girl is unharmed, it is at times really harrowing and is a difficult read.

When Ettore is taken in for questioning over the kidnap of the girl, the family’s world comes crashing down Elia’s mother stands by her husband and Elia turns to Anna and does sleep with her.

Elia’s whole teenage years are ruined by his father’s actions and his mother’s reactions to this. His father then dies in prison of a heart attack a few years later.

I think the book is a great exploration into the indirect effects of a parent’s actions which isn’t always explored in novels as the focus tends to be on either the victim or tormentor. Although the novel wasn’t what I thought and at times was difficult to follow with all the changes in time, it was still a thrilling read.