Review: ‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough (@SarahPinborough, @HarperFiction) #WTFThatEnding

Disclaimer: Ok. So I have no idea if this review contains what could be considered spoilers or not but I’ve tried hard to avoid it and I don’t think it does. If in doubt just skip to the last two paragraphs and it sums it up. Hardest review to write ever.

32321233 The Official Book Blurb

Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Oh. My. Life. Seriously. No question about it – #WTFThatEnding is just about right.

Usually, at this point in my review, I would be rewriting the blurb, putting the story into my own words, broadening my understanding of the text and hopefully giving a fraction more enlightenment to anyone who should choose to read my ramblings.

I can’t do that here. I just can’t. Anything I say above what is written at the top is too much of a risk. There are so many elements to this book which if spoken of could ruin the experience for the new reader that I can only say trust the book and read. It’s a bit like seeing ‘The Mousetrap’ in the West End. The reason that it has run and run for over 60 years is because nobody discusses whodunnit. The only way to know is to go for yourself (or look it up on Wikipedia if you just don’t believe in the magic of surprise.) And a bit like the movie Fight Club, the first rule of ‘WTFThatEnding’ Club is that you don’t talk about that ending, not outside of the club house.

So. How to talk about a book without talking about a book? Well, how about the characters? Three people embroiled in a complicated relationship built upon lies. Two are married, two are having an affair and two are engaged in a secret friendship. The wife, Adele, and the lover, Louise, are as different as chalk and cheese, and Louise knows that their friendship is wrong, as is her affair with Adele’s husband David. And yet she is drawn to Adele like a moth to a flame, intrigued by her relationship with David and slightly scared of what the truth may be.

As Louise digs deeper into the secrets within Adele and David’s marriage, as a reader I found myself drawn in, wanting to find out the truth and more than fascinated by Adele. She is a complex character, hiding behind a mask which, as the novel progresses, is slowly removed leaving the secret she is desperate to hide exposed. And Louise? Divorced single mother whose former husband is settling down and moving on making her feel even worse about her lack of life outside of her son and work, her affair with David is not really a surprise. She is a weaker character by nature, still hurting from the breakdown of her marriage and wanting to feel loved again, but so easily led by her friends. And as for David. He’s like a chameleon, easily changing his colours to match his environment, his character slick and at times unbelievably charismatic, while at others aggressive and angry. And it seems everybody has a secret. The duplicity of each of this perfectly dysfunctional trio, even the ease with which Louise lies to both her friend and her lover, makes it almost impossible to know who to trust.

As is often the case, you can never really know what is going on in a marriage unless you are the one living within it. Even then sometimes everything is still just hidden behind a lie. This particular marriage is toxic, the main players manipulative and for those who get sucked into the mess the results can be devastating. Told from both Adele and Louise’s points of view you get two very different ideas of what the truth may be. While sometimes switching between points of view can be off putting, almost confusing, the writing here is so assured, the characters so cleverly developed and the voices so distinct, that there is no question over whose head it is you are inside.

I personally found this book very compelling. I won’t lie to you, when I first started reading I struggled to get into it, fearing it was another psychologically twisted domestic noir with characters I wasn’t initially engaged by, and for the first half of the book I really wondered if I was going to enjoy it. But by part two I was hooked and sincerely glad that I had stuck with it. This is billed as a psychological thriller and I know this has thrown some people when reading it. I honestly don’t know quite what genre this would fit into as to pigeon hole it as one thing or another would either set expectation or perhaps lead to bewilderment or disappointment. This has a fair chance of being one of 2017’s marmite books. You’ll love it or hate it because of that ending. I like books that live life on an angle and this is just about as acute an angle as you can get without it ending fully perpendicular to the start position.

And good god. That ending. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. Totally my bag. I thought I knew. Thought it was so bloody obvious from about two thirds of the way through but no. I rarely get blindsided by a book but this one totally got me. I think my brain is still bruised where it took a metaphorical clobbering. Genius.

So. My advice? For god’s sake don’t read the reviews on Good Reads or at least be selective on what you read. And avoid Wikipedia as some plank is bound to spoil everything posting the plot on there at some point (and probably getting it wrong). Go into this book blind and with an open mind. Trust the book and trust the writing. And if you do? Well you’re in for one heck of a ride.

A totally twisted, WTF-tastic 5 stars from me.

5

My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Harper Fiction for providing the ARC of ‘Behind Her Eyes’. It is released on 26th January and is available for pre-order from the following retailers:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

10 thoughts on “Review: ‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough (@SarahPinborough, @HarperFiction) #WTFThatEnding

  1. Excellent review, I struggled writing mine as well. I was in the LOVED it camp but I know many despised it. I just lent it to my sister and can’t wait to see what she thinks I know she’ll never see where it’s going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s so hard to talk about when you want to talk about that bit but can’t. It’s going to surprise a lot of people. I know some I think will love it and some who’ll feel cheated if you know what I mean. It’s tough. I loved it though. Totally my thing

      Like

  2. Pingback: Rewind, recap: Weekly round up w/e 22/01/17 – Jen Med's Book Reviews

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