Review – Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes

By | June 26, 2014

Alex, a career officer in an elite regiment, returns from Afghanistan a changed man. He has left the army behind and is attempting to forge a civilian career as a security advisor. His wife, Juliet, is delighted. She, Alex and their son, Ben, now live in a well-appointed house in a leafy London suburb.

But all is not well. Juliet’s research on the internet suggests that Alex is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but pride means that he will not seek professional help.

Finding solace in web forums, Juliet is offered the use of a cottage and is urged to remove Ben to a place of safety. After a lot of secretive planning and the financial support of Alex’s mother who had suffered at the hands of her husband, Juliet and Ben escape the tyranny of their home with the hope of starting afresh…

I so wanted to be original when writing about this one, but it’s really difficult.  Looking at other reviews, I can see that other people have used “seriously disturbing”, “all-consuming” and even “head-fuck”.  So what more can I say? I read this book in one sitting on a hot afternoon in the garden – well, I say “one sitting” but I did break off twice because it was really difficult to read on through the dreadful cruelty these two appalling people are capable of inflicting on each other. I say “appalling people”, but Lizzie Forbes does something so clever in this book – because the story is told from both viewpoints, you find yourself sympathising with and feeling for them both at times, however you try to resist. The character development is quite superb, the writing both taut and flowing, and the narrative sweeps you up and carries you with it, whether you want to be carried or not.  So dark, horribly chilling, and – yes – seriously disturbing.  

At a rational level, I have to say that I liked Nearest Thing To Crazy better: at an emotional level, Who Are You? would be really difficult to better. I’m dying to see what this wonderful author comes up with next – what an amazing talent. 

Who Are You?, the second novel by Elizabeth Forbes, is published today (26 June) by Cutting Edge Press, and is available in paperback and kindle editions.