This is a very emotionally intense novel. It’s packaged as a psychological thriller but it’s more like a dissection of a failing marriage.
The story is narrated by Caroline and Francis, a couple with a lot of issues and some secrets. They do a ‘house swap’ with a random person from the internet as a substitute for a holiday. Yet the house they are staying in for a week has some odd coincidences about it and there is an intensely curious neighbour to deal with. It sounds just about credible. The chapters range across a timespan of a few years, alternating with a third narrative voice, whose identity is not revealed until later on. Although the plot is fairly simple, the characters’ relationships are complex. I think having only a few characters, explored in depth, is effective. They weren’t very likeable but you could understand their motives, even if their expressions and behaviour were a little over-dramatic. The sense of place, other than the house that Caroline and Francis were staying at, was minimal. I would have preferred more descriptions of the places and fewer intimate details of Caroline’s affair.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the book, partly because it wasn’t what I expected – I thought it would be more of a thriller. However, the way that the author presents the tension between the characters is very impressive. The ending, while shocking, didn’t feel right to me.
Considering that it’s a debut novel, this book is not a bad read. If, like me, you find it for 50p in a charity shop, then go ahead.
First published in 2018.