When they were ten everybody wanted to be Serena’s friend, to find themselves one of the inner circle. But doing so meant proving your worth, and doing that often had consequences it’s not nice to think about – not even thirty-five years later.
Karen Rothwell is randomly reminded of an incident in her childhood which just as suddenly becomes an obsession. It takes her on a journey into a land of secrets and lies; it means finding that gang of girls from Marsh Green Junior School and most importantly of all finding Serena Whinn.
I’ve been wanting to try one of Thorne Moore’s books for quite a while – her earlier ones, A Time For Silence and Motherlove have been waiting patiently on my kindle for their moment. Being part of a tour for Brook Cottage Books has again been the catalyst to finally try the writing of an author I already really liked the look of. The Unravelling was published by Honno Press on 21st July – available for kindle and in paperback through Amazon in the UK and US (also available from Honno, Book Depository and Wordery) – and it really made me kick myself that I hadn’t tried Thorne Moore’s wonderful writing rather sooner.
I guess this book can be described as “domestic noir” – or grip-lit (don’t you hate that term?) or a psychological thriller – but it’s also something totally fresh and new, and very, very different. The narrator is Karen, and I loved her clear and distinctive voice from the very first page. We very quickly realise that she’s a little unusual – she treads a very fine line between functioning quite normally, and “unravelling” when something disturbs her fragile equilibrium.
A random incident – an apple falling into a watery drain – triggers a long buried childhood memory, and her quest to establish the truth behind it becomes an obsession which takes over her life. As Karen rediscovers her memories, we share them as they slowly take shape – and revisit her childhood with vivid scenes of her friendships, the people who featured in and shaped her life, and the incident that changed everything for ever.
The childhood memories are wonderfully drawn, and it’s easy to share Karen’s blissful happiness in being allowed to join the group of friends allowed to move in the orbit of the golden Serena Whinn. But there’s also excellent depiction of the cruelty that children can show to each other, and the playground politics that can profoundly affect their lives and relationships.
The way the book is constructed is extremely clever – small incidents, scenes and exchanges, with a complex layering of truth and lies, right and wrong, that slowly, and very explosively, unravels. And the descriptions are extraordinarily vivid – Karen’s garden flat overtaken by her obsession with books, her confusion as she rediscovers the geography of her childhood, stunning images of some of the incidents that provide the key to the story.
The characterisation too is simply superb. Not just Karen, but everyone who features in her life, both in childhood and the present day. The depiction of the children is particularly striking – every one clearly drawn and individualised, and it’s simply fascinating to see all those quirks and traits magnified as we meet some of them again as adults. In the present day too, I loved Karen’s relationships – her “lunch companion” Charlie, her observation of the people she works with, and her bookshop owner friend.
And I do hope I’m not making the whole book sound rather earnest, because it really isn’t that at all. Karen has a wonderful self-deprecating humour and a clarity about her mental state, and keeps you firmly in her corner, however uncomfortable it sometimes is to be there. And the story itself, with its peeling layers of secrets and lies, is totally enthralling and quite perfectly paced – this is one of those books that haunts you for as long as you’re reading, and stays with you long after you’ve finished.
I loved this book – but I’m guessing you can probably tell. And I really don’t think Thorne Moore’s other books will be languishing in the depths of my kindle for very much longer…
With thanks to the author, publisher Honno Press and Brook Cottage Books, I’m delighted to join the draw offering five lucky readers the chance to win an e-copy of The Unravelling (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thorne Moore was born in Luton but has lived in in the back of beyond in North Pembrokeshire for 32 years. She has degrees in History and Law, worked in a library and ran a family restaurant as well as a miniature furniture craft business, which is still in production, but she now concentrates on writing psychological crime mysteries.
Thorne has an excellent website and blog, and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.