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.

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The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese

The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese

A Beautiful Summer was recommended in Waterstones weekly email. At the moment I get a lot of the recommendations from the email they send out and having only been to Italy three months ago, I am still obsessed with all things Italian.

Written in 1949 and translated from Italian to English, A Beautiful Summer tells the story of Ginia and Amelia. The young girls don’t really have a care in the world. The things they do hone in on and worry about are the trival things you obsess about at that age. This is what Cesare Pavese so brilliantly captures – I remember at that age not really having a care about the bigger picture and not seeing the consequences of actions. Instead I would worry about trival things, a fly away comment, that in the grand scheme of things was not remotely important.

Although not set in Florence, the novel had me dreaming of those old cobbled streets and old artsy buildings.

I have to admit I enjoyed the beginning and the ending but lost it a bit in the middle. I’m not sure if there was enough to keep me entertained. It felt like one of those books I would have been made to read at uni and one which my lecturers would have gone mad over.

For once I read the introduction (this was by Elizabeth Strout) having background on the author gave more substance to the novel for me.

It’s a nice artsy novel however I don’t know if I’d be reaching for it again.

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

So I’ve read my 6473838 thriller of the year. In comparison to others I’ve read The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana sits in the middle however it’s not to be dismissed as a bad novel and is definitely worth a read.

The book flits between present day and 1982. Anna is in her hometown for her mother’s funeral and to sort through her family home and late father’s business. Anna rarely visited her mother in her final years and the relationship between the two is incredibly fractured and via flashbacks we learn why.

Anna and her sister Gabriella were incredibly close growing up, that is until Gabriella goes missing. She just vanishes and no one can offer any clues as to what happened. Anna becomes the ‘girl who has the missing sister’ and her parents completely fall apart. Anna is given food and comfort from relatives but nothing compares to the longing and desire to know what happened to her sister. The event tears the family apart and their father suffers a fatal heart attack in the woods looking for Gabriella.

Edward Lilly and his family have recently moved to the village and not much is known about them. Edward is stern and unwelcoming and his children, Martha and Lydia are shunned by their classmates for their peculiar nature. But it’s Martha who turns out to be the missing link in the mystery of Gabriella’s disappearance.

By sorting through her parents stuff, Anna uncovers the secret that Edward Lilly was really Gabriella father and as Martha was one if the last people to see Gabriella alive Anna forces Martha to tell her what really happened on that awful day. Edward and Gabriella had a disagreement and Gabriella told him that she wanted to be with her family, not him. He took her into the house where his wife murdered Gabriella and buried her in the garden. This isn’t Edward’s first murder and the tradegy is he cannot be brought to pay for his crimes having died some years earlier.

This is a good book and defitnitely one you could devour of a summer afternoon.

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly is the ultimate in thriller fiction. I really could not put this book down. Each section I read had so many twist and turns that I genuinely did not see coming and the best bit…having one of the protagonists as completely unreliable. The novel flits between Laura and Kit’s viewpoints from 1999 and 2015. I’ll try and summarise as best I can.

Laura and Kit are two young lovers who are obsessed with ecplises. The pair travel to Cornwall, one of the best places in the world to see 1999’s eclipse. Laura travels down a day later than Kit and he along with his twin brother Mac have a hot drink stand running at a festival.

Laura notices a purse lying in the grass and follows a trail to the owner, who is found face down in the dirt with a man on top of her. The police are called and Jamie the attacker is arrested on suspicion of rape. Beth, the victim doesn’t say anything when questioned by police. Laura struggles to believe what she’s witnessed. Was it really rape?

The trial takes place in Cornwall, Jamie’s family are incredibly wealthy and do everything they can to try and get their son off the hook. But money cannot save him when Laura tells the court that Beth was shouting ‘no’ during the assault – a lie.

Beth befriends Laura and Kit but becomes too friendly, constantly in their flat and causing struggles between the couple. When Laura tells Beth to back off, Beth leaves the flat. A few weeks later broken glass is put through the letterbox and a fire breaks out in their flat. Meanwhile Beth is getting threats sent in the post from Jamie for the lie she told in court.

The pair decide to start a new life with a new identity to avoid Beth but Laura constantly lives her life in fear.

But halfway through the book we hear Kit’s version of events. Kit knew Beth before Laura found her being raped because he slept with her the night before the attack. The friendship Beth then strikes up the Laura puts him on edge so he was the one who put glass though the door and set fire to the flat to make it look like Beth did it.

When Kit is out of the country, in 2015, Beth tracks down the pregnant Laura thanks to a social media post from Kit detailing his travel plans for the year’s eclipses. Beth tells Laura than Jamie is now out of prison and has broken his wife’s jaw – he’s been abusing his wife for years. This is the information they need to put Jamie back behind bars. The novel’s climax is Jamie holding Beth and Laura hostage but one of them doesn’t make it out alive as Kit bursts into the flat and Laura find some out the real truth of Kit and Beth’s relationship.

I loved this novel, it had me hooked from the off. I could easily see this being turned into a film or tv adaption. I’m definitely going to read more of Erin Kelly’s novels if this is what I can expect.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

I bought The Witchfinders Sister by Beth Underdown on a bit of a whim. With post wedding blues and a negative bank balanace to boot I was after a bargain. Even reading the blurb I was slightly unsure if I would like the novel but thought I’d give it a chance seeing as I love anything set in history.

Alice Hopkin’s husband sadly dies and she returns home to her brother. Feeling fragile and lost, Alice is carrying her late husband’s child, tragically she’s lost many children before birth previously, so is understandably feeling worried about what might happen now.

Her brother, Matthew felt Alice’s husband was too lowly a match so Alice conceals the preganancy from her brother (tragically she does loose the baby). Matthew though is far too preoccupied to notice. He is obsessed with finding witchcraft in the community and torturing, sometimes innocent, women.

The book is haunting and Matthew’s obsession and dark behaviour is linked to his traumatic first few days of life where is falls into a fire.

For me, the plot wasn’t strong enough and detailed enough to keep me hooked, I wish Alice and Matthew were both developed more as characters and to make more of an impact the narrative could have been made even darker.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The Woman in the Window by A J Finn

It took me over a month to read The Woman in the Window. I’m the type of reader who can only dedicate themselves to one book at a time, however due to going on holiday and wanting to have more baggage allowance for clothes I decided to take a smaller book with me, hence the month long read.

I like getting my hands on a hardback book because I feel like a proper reader with one.

I was a bit disappointed by The Woman in the Window, I’d heard great things and the fact it is being turned in a film I thought it was going to have that Gone Girl-esquire suspense and drama. However I felt it was a bit of a slow burner. The ending does have a spectacular twist and the main narrator proves to be ridiculously unreliable, keeping you guessing. In my eyes these were perhaps it’s saving qualities.

Anna lives in an apartment in New York. A former child psychologist, she is now petrified to leave her house and her drinking habits have spiralled out of control. She spends her days and nights watching her neighbours and marking their every move and offering advice on an online chat forum.

What I found was odd, was how her husband and daughter would phone her yet never visit her and what event caused her to not want to step outside her front door.

One night she sees new neighbours Alistair and Jane along with their son Ethan move into the apartment opposite. Not long after their move Jane knocks on her door and they have a fun evening together getting to know each other, playing games and drinking. Several weeks later when Anna sees what she believes to be Alistair murdering his wife and Jane covered in blood she calls the police. But when they question her, Jane appears with Alistair but it’s not the Jane she met previously.

It’s here we start to question Anna’s reliability. Anna finds pictures on her phone of her in her sleep leading her to think there has been an intruder in her home. The police refuse to believe her and it’s then we learn why. Her husband and daughter were actually killed in a car accident. Anna was driving the car and her and her husband had an argument when he found a message on Anna’s phone indicating she was having an affair. The car rolled down a bank into the snow and plunged into obscurity from the road her husband and daughter eventually froze to death.

Her visions of Jane’s apparent murder are put down to post traumatic stress.

The twist comes when Ethan visits Anna and admits he killed Jane, his birth mum, and plans to kill Anna. He admits he broke into her house and took pictures and also posed as people in need of help on the chat room. A tussle ensues and Ethan meets a grissley end.

It’s not the most compelling novel I’ve read but the twist at the end does save it.

The Party by Elizabeth Day

My description of The Party by Elizabeth Day is a classy thriller. The book is full of suspense and keeps you guessing until the end.

Martin Gilmour and Ben Fitzmaurice have been best friends since their school days but they couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds.

Ben is from British aristocracy and continues after his school days to mix with the British elite which is demonstrated at his 40th birthday party when he invites celebrities and even the prime minster to the bash. Martin meanwhile grows up in a single parent family after the death of his mother. He’s emotionally bullied by his mother and when he’s sent away to boarding school and meets Ben, he sets his sights on becoming his friend. He tactically bumps into him in the corridor or a overhears a discussion on what music he’s into, just so he can strike up a conversation on their supposed mutual interests. Eventually Martin gets his way and the two becme firm friends and he even ends up staying with Ben’s family for school holidays. It sounds so lovely but there is unnerving underlying tension which Day so brilliantly captures. Ben often hints at his annoyance over Martin’s obsession with him and even calls him Little Shadow and Martin hints to the reader at his love and infatuation with Ben.

On one drunken evening at a society party at university the pair jump in a car with Ben’s latest squeeze and with Ben at the wheel they crash. Martin takes the blame and Ben’s dad gives him a rather generous sum of money.

The novel flits between the past and what got them to present day – Martin winding up in a police station after Ben’s birthday bash. Due to Martin’s obsession with Ben, his marriage to Lucy is rather a marriage of convenience. The men’s friendship is incredibly fickle and when Ben decides his friendship to Martin is no longer good for his image and wishes to pay him off as he will be running for MP, Lucy hits Serena, Martin’s wife, over the hit and knocks her out. All is kept hush hush as it wouldn’t be good for Ben’s image.

Pretty much all the charcaters in this book are unlikable, yet the book is incredibly captivating and made me want to read to find out more about the difuctional world they live in. I really liked this boo