The Book of You by Claire Kendal
|The Book of You by Claire Kendal|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A superlative, dramatic stalker thriller that's realism rather than Hollywood and all the more welcome for that.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: April 2014|
Clarissa is 38, secretary to a university department head and just emerging from a broken relationship. Rafe also works for the university, wants Clarissa and Clarissa wants him. He's absolutely certain she does, no matter how vehemently she denies it, no matter how fast she runs.
American-born, British-adopted Claire Kendal has made the publishing world sit up with this, her debut novel. HarperCollins won the book rights and assures us in the blurb that it will (not might) be translated into 12 languages. Personally I'm aghast. While understanding their position, my reaction after reading the novel is 'Why only 12?' This is a book that gets under the skin of a stalking victim (and indeed the stalker) with stunning effect.
The Book of You is entertainment and a must-read (I politely suggest) for anyone who isn't sure about psychological thrillers as well as those of us who are fans. It manages to be entertainment that subliminally imbues us with the realisation that perhaps society doesn't take stalking (by either gender) seriously enough. We're shown how we make judgements from appearances and pre-assumed stereotypes which are not only incorrect but also can be consequentially fatal. On average a person suffers 110 stalking incidents before they call the police for fear they'll be disbelieved; surely that's not only the fault of the police but also the society that supports such an assumption?
Rafe operates with Bill-Nighy-smoothness (my suggested a shoo-in if there's a movie!) instilling us with feelings of fear and utter uselessness as he operates with a psychologically precocious professionalism. His stalking is imperceptible to others, or worse, flips their perceptions with a shrouding charm.
On the whole Claire gets her point across to us by transmitting Clarissa's paranoia and frustration straight into our psyches. There is one unnecessary paragraph where the pros and cons of extreme behaviour are spelt out but Claire should rest assured that her talent has already led us to these conclusions through the story. However it's only the one para so just reduces the rating from a 6/5 to a still stonking 5/5.
Why 5/5? As the book sticks to our hands (I read it in one sitting!) we realise how intelligently Claire weaves a tapestry from a mixture of third person narrative, cleverly juxtaposed trial scenes relating to someone other than our main characters and extracts from Clarissa's diary. This is no ordinary diary – this is Clarissa's desperate attempt to collate evidence. This is her book of Rafe; the titular Book of You.
The ending seems to be a bit Marmite depending on which reviews you read. For me it's a brave finish which doesn't shy away from the true-life aspect, adding further authenticity.
Speaking of the end, on a less serious note, a useful tip: Make sure that nature's calls are fully answered before you embark on the latter third of the book. Some readers will say that they can guess what will happen. I thought I could and was mistaken in some aspects. However even the most comprehensive precognition doesn't prepare us for the white knuckles and how the denouement finally plays out.
Claire is currently working on her second thriller – the brave lass. Claire, you've set yourself a very high benchmark to match, but if anyone can do it, I'm sure you can.
Thank you, HarperCollins for providing us with a copy for review!
Further Reading: If you'd like to stick with the theme, Enduring Love by Ian McEwan also comes from a different angle and is also highly recommended.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of You by Claire Kendal at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of You by Claire Kendal at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.