Revenge is a dish best served cold…
😐 😐 😐
When Nina sees Emma across a London street, it stirs old memories – and they’re not good ones. Engineering an ‘accidental’ meeting, she’s happy to find that Emma doesn’t recognise her. Emma, mother of a toddler and pregnant again, is struggling with a life of domesticity and is badly in need of a friend and confidante, giving Nina the ideal opportunity to insinuate herself into Emma’s life. But the reader knows from an early stage that Nina isn’t the kind, supportive person she seems to Emma. For reasons we don’t discover till late on in the book, she’s out to have some kind of revenge on Emma – small things at first, but gradually becoming more sinister…
The book is told from the two women’s perspectives in alternating chapters. Unfortunately both voices are in the dreaded first-person present tense. I also found that both voices are too similar – while their stories and perspectives are different, their speech patterns and vocabulary are pretty much identical. So apparently are their experiences of child-rearing. I do get rather tired of all the fictional middle-class and fairly wealthy mothers who seem to find child-rearing so difficult and burdensome. Emma is struggling to cope with one child and it’s pretty obvious things aren’t going to improve when she has to deal with a new-born too. Nina has the typical troublesome teenager, who stays out late and is occasionally rude to her mother. I must say the misery of the two mothers over rather minor things seemed pretty overdone.
The story itself is reasonably interesting, though the device of covering the same ground twice from the two different perspectives becomes really tedious quite quickly. It’s been done before and done better – by Gillian White in Copycat, for instance. Again, there isn’t enough difference in the two voices to make the re-telling fresh, and we very soon come to know, I felt, how innocent Emma’s account would be seen in the next chapter through the eyes of wicked Nina. But from about halfway through the story begins to speed up a bit and the duplication in narrative is reduced. When the action moves to the south of France, Lane gives us some good descriptive writing that creates an authentic sense of place. And although I found the ‘children are so hard’ angst overdone, she does give a realistic picture of the joys or otherwise of travelling and holidaying with young children in tow.
As the book approaches the conclusion, Lane ratchets up the tension nicely and there’s no doubt the ending is suitably thrillerish. No spoilers, but from other reviews the ending seems to be dividing people into love or hate camps – I thought it was well written…but hated it. I didn’t feel it worked with the psychology of the characters and I didn’t think it matched the overall tone of the book. I think it may be my disappointment with the ending that’s colouring my overall view of the book, because for the most part, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, I found this a flowing, reasonably enjoyable read, and quite well written. But in the end I felt it was nothing more than a lightweight entertainment, with not enough depth to compensate for some of the weaknesses or to justify the unexpectedly heavyweight ending.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion Publishing Group.