‘Why did you let him in?’
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Publication Date 25th April 2013
Tom Vowler’s debut novel is almost certain to be one of the most read books of the year. Part psychological study, part thriller, it tells the story of Anna, living in seeming contentment with her family in a cottage on Dartmoor. But Anna has a secret in her past – a secret that she has kept faithfully to protect herself and those she loves. And now it looks as though that secret may be revealed…
This is not an action thriller. We see Anna’s story gradually develop in a series of flashbacks that are intercut with the present. It’s hard to say too much about the plot without spoilers but, as we get to know what Anna is hiding, the reader is pulled in to share not just her physical fear of further harm but also her dread of what the revelation of her secret will do to her family.
Vowler’s sensitivity in dealing with some difficult subjects is remarkable, especially since he is telling the story from Anna’s viewpoint. Without wishing to sound sexist, at no point does this feel like a man writing as a woman – Anna’s emotions, thoughts and actions come over as completely credible. A strong woman, but psychologically maimed, she has been given a second chance at life and is determined not to lose it, whatever the cost.
The darkness of the subject matter prevents me describing this as an enjoyable read, but it is certainly an enthralling and emotional one. The portrait Vowler paints of Anna is sympathetic and intimate; her relationships with her husband, children and parents are entirely believable. Although the other characters are not quite as prominent they are equally well drawn, and Vowler uses the drama and isolation of the Dartmoor landscape to excellent effect. In keeping with the tone of the book, the dénouement might be somewhat low-key for this to be truly categorised as a thriller, but it is tense and moving and ultimately more satisfying for that. A very well-written story, with a leading character who will be remembered long after the book is read – Vowler has already with this debut established himself as an author to watch. Highly recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.