It is my absolute pleasure to be sharing my thoughts on So Pretty, the brand new gothic novel from Ronnie Turner. My thanks to publisher Orenda Books for the advance copy of review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. I was so excited to read this book. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Fear blisters through this town like a fever…
When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.
Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.
This book feels like it has been a long time coming but it was so worth the wait. From the very opening pages of this book, you get a sense of foreboding, that brooding atmosphere and unsettling tone that captivates and draws you through a tale as twisted and unnerving as the various trinkets and oddities that fill the shelves of the novel’s infamous store – Berry & Vincent. This is a pure gothic delight, echoes of Stephen King, but a modern mystery with old-worldly undertones.
This is the story of three very different people, each of them loners, drawn together by some strange and twisted turn of fate, and whose presence in each other’s lives unleashes something quite intense and often uncontrollable. It’s a tale of obsession and the overwhelming need for possession that will make the skin crawl. Teddy is a young man who moves to Rye in a bid to make a new start. He begins work at Berry & Vincent, a strange shop full of the kinds of antiques and curiosities that make the local people rush by, but which hold a strange fascination for visitors to the town. Something about the place, and its strange, uncommunicative owner Mr Vincent, draws Teddy in. Some of the scenes between the two of them feel totally uncomfortable and yet strangely compelling, and the way in which they start to impact upon each other results in the steadily increasing sense of unease that underpins the novel. The third person who makes up this unusual and ultimately destructive trio, is young mother Ada who, alongside her son, Albie, moves to Rye for her own fresh start. Like Teddy and Mr Vincent, Ada lives a rather solitary life, with no real friends or people looking out for her, other than her father, and that will be, in part, the root of all of their undoing.
Through the three characters Ronnie Turner has created a story which is challenging and created q whole host of emotions and feelings within me. Initially I felt a kind of sympathy towards Teddy, a young man who is running from his past and trying to escape the sphere of his own father’s infamy. It was easy to feel that sympathy, to understand his need for anonymity, and how he sought to fit in without drawing attention to himself. But he is a far more complex and nuanced character than he first appears, and changes in his personality from working alongside Mr Vincent soon bring those quirks to the surface. Vincent says little, his interactions with Teddy speaking volumes without a single word being uttered. There is a potency about him that comes across from the start, a dark side which is slowly uncovered, scenes and revelations which will cause anger and disgust, adding a layer of tragedy to an already troubling tale. Ada is a stark contrast to the pair and this, and Albie’s delightful innocence cast a small element of light within the all consuming shadows of Berry & Vincent.
Readers are gradually drawn towards a stark, but perhaps inevitable conclusion, an overspilling of the obsession and depravity that we have seen building throughout the book. The scenes towards the end of the book are amongst the darkest of them all, none gratuitous in the way they are presented, but the author’s mastery of language leaving a mark and certainly making you feel uncomfortable, but in a way which makes you want to read on rather than look away. The chapters are short but effective, alternating between Ada and Teddy’s points of view, the author managing to keep the voices truly distinct. The exploration of personality, of the question mark placed over whether a person is born bad or becomes bad through circumstance, nature verses nurture as it were, is strong and perfectly framed. There is also that sense that environment is a key factor in the slow descent into a kind of madness that envelops one of the central characters in the book.
Be prepared to be surprised and enthralled by this book. There is a beautiful and lyrical nature to the prose that helps in not only bringing the setting to life, but in creating that pulsing tension that always beats just below the surface. It makes quite the impact while reading and stays with you long after that final page too. Definitely recommended. The more I think about it, the more I think it really deserves on of these too …
About the Author
Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. Ronnie is a Waterstones Senior Bookseller.
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