The Widow by Fiona Barton

“The ultimate psychological thriller.”

Ok.

 

“Shortlisted for Richard and Judy Search for a bestseller competition”

Interesting.

 

“If you liked the Girl on the Train, you’ll love The Widow.”

Oh.

 

Oh dear.

 

Before I started reading it, I wanted to like The Widow, there’s a little bit of a buzz about it in the industry, and I love it when a book becomes a huge success, but regular readers will know that likening something to The Girl on the Train is not going to massively enthuse me.

 

On a side note, it’s really irritating when people say things like “2016’s Girl on the Train”

 

For a start Girl on the Train was not 2015’s anything, it stood on it’s own merit.

 

Secondly, nobody remembers what 2014’s Gone Girl was (mostly because Gone Girl was still selling).

 

Thirdly, you’re only setting the readers up for disappointment. Either they hated Girl on the Train and so won’t buy this, or they loved it – and this doesn’t love up to it.

 

I was disappointed by Girl on The Train (she kept getting off the train, for one) and so with some trepidation I sat down to begin The Widow.

 

We’ll start with the positives… mostly because there are some.

 

It was a total page-turner which pushes the reader on, right to the end.

 

Kate, the reporter, is a very well drawn character and the scenes involving her and the photographer are the most realistic of the whole book. Not surprising considering the previous occupation of the author (clue: it rhymes with preporter).

 

Despite being set across several years, and jumping about in time in no discernible pattern, the book actually flows quite well. The time jumps are not jarring as they easily could have been – and often are in other books.

 

There are other positives, but they involve the resolution of the plot and so I’m not going to go into too much detail on those.

 

Onto the negatives, and in truth, it’s not negatives plural, there’s one thing wrong with this book.

 

The writing is lazy.

 

Jean and Glen, the couple at the heart of the story, are written as if they’re in their late fifties, sixties – but the writer for absolutely no reason has insisted on putting them in their thirties. Every time their young age is referenced, it shatters the illusion, the image that has formed in the mind.

 

The writing is spot on… for an older couple. And there is no benefit to pretending they’re young.

 

This is the biggest problem with the writing, but there are various other things that don’t quite work.

 

For example, our police officer gains a new colleague during the book named Zara, she is classed as thirty five, and then the writer suggests she is named such as her parents were probably fans of the Royal Family.

 

That’ll be Zara Phillips they’re referencing who isn’t even thirty five now, let alone in 2008 when that particular scene was set.

 

It took me ten seconds on the internet to work out the maths of that, but once again, it was a moment that took me out of the book, because it didn’t seem quite right.

 

And once again, there was no need for it. She could have just been called Zara with no further reference as to why and the book would have carried on fine.

 

There are lots of little things like this throughout and it’s so disappointing because this could have been a really good book.

 

Ultimately, it’s ok. It’s annoying when you read it, but you do want to read it, and you do want to find out what happened. It’s a great read for passing some time on a plane, or by a pool, and by that measure it will sell really well, but you probably won’t remember it a week later.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

The Torun Way book club is back.

For those of you that have been reading the blog for a while (anticipating that number to be somewhere between 0 and 0.5) you’ll know all about the Torun Way Book Club.

For those that don’t know what it is… take a wild guess.

It actually came back earlier in the summer when we read The Girl on the Train but I was going to read that anyway (and we all know how well that turned out).

This time Debs chose I Let You Go, a Richard and Judy summer pick, and also a title selected by the Loose Women.

If that doesn’t say quality, I don’t know what does.

Five-year-old Jacob is out walking with his mother when he breaks away from her and is hit by a car. He dies in her arms as the driver of the car speeds away.

The story then follows Jenna as she leaves Bristol to get away from the death of Jacob and DI Ray Stevens who is investigating the hit and run, attempting to track down the driver.

At first, the book felt odd to me. It flipped between Jenna mourning poor Jacob, trying to start a new life in a remote Welsh village and a police procedural miles away.

It felt like two different books, like last year’s Daughter by Jane Shemilt stitched together with a Peter James book. Both of them very good, but an odd combination.

I struggled with it at first. Jenna’s story seemed to be developing at some pace, meeting new people, then getting on with her life, while Stevens story in Bristol seemed to centre around the struggles of his marriage and his growing attraction to a colleague.

Then there is one of the best twists I’ve ever come across in a book. I didn’t see it coming at all.

There’s not much else I can say that doesn’t ruin the twist, so I do suggest you go and read the book, then come back to me.

There is another twist later on in the book that made me think “Oh, FFS.” – but then the twist is swiftly explained and the book is rescued.

The two parts of the story still remain separate, and I’m struggling to understand the point of delving into the police’s private lives for no other reason than padding the book out a little.

The first third of the book is definitely built around the twist, which is a shame. It would be nice to see that section become a bit more developed, because I can believe some people would have given up before the revelation.

Like I Let You Go, the return of The Torun Way Book Club got off to a shaky start, but is now back on track. It’s my turn to pick the next book. It’ll come as no surprise that I’ve picked A Little Life

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Every now and then a book comes along that sells and sells and sells. The likes of Grey and Go Set A Watchman come along occasionally and sell – to use a technical term – shitloads in a short space of time.

But some books sell and they consistently sell well and they top the charts week after week.

The Da Vinci Code, The Hunger Games, Gone Girl, Fault in Our Stars, all of these are amongst the bestsellers with some of them still going even now, years after their publication.

After the phenomenon that was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the sequel The Lost Symbol was released to great fanfare in 2009 and spent a record breaking nineteen weeks in the number one slot in the Fiction Hardback chart.

To put that into context, there are SO many books published each week, that the average title stays in the charts for around six to seven weeks.

The Lost Symbol spending that long at the top of the chart is the book-world equivalent of a man living to be 250 years old.

Earlier this month, that record was broken by the book that even the most casual of readers will have noticed hanging around in bookshops – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Since Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl first hit the heights of popularity, a new genre has emerged in fiction – domestic noir. Basically tense thrillers involving a married couple – The Girl on the Train is just the latest in a long line of hit titles in the genre – but it may well be the peak.

I finally got round to reading GotT this week and… I struggled. There is nothing wrong with it. There’s a nice twist – literally – at the end, there are some very tense moments, and it’s well written.

But parts of it are predictable – in fact, that’s the nature of domestic noir novels – not always that the husband did it, but they feature a small cast of characters, and so it is often easy to spot the bad guy (or girl).

Where these books succeed is in the character’s motives and the ‘how do they get through this’ factor.

The Girl on the Train is just not worth the hype. There is no discernible reason why it has had the success it has had, when others that are equally good or even better have not fared as well.

It’s a good read, it’s a quick read, but it’s distinctly average. Perhaps as a gateway drug to the genre, it’s a good book, or even for those desperate to read more of this type of title, but I suspect we are now at the point with any resurgent genre where we will see a huge cascade of copy-cat titles.

Besides, she’s not even on the train that much.