The Exclusives: No One Can Hurt You More Than a Friend by Rebecca Thornton
|The Exclusives: No One Can Hurt You More Than a Friend by Rebecca Thornton|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A disturbing debut novel on friendship and the effects of betrayal, weaving itself into we readers' minds and not letting go. Think Mallory Towers for grown-ups but darker… much, much darker.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: April 2016|
|Publisher: Twenty 7|
Josephine is a successful archaeologist on a dig in Amman when she gets the email she never expected: Freya wants to meet up with her. The reason isn’t such a surprise though. In 1996 Freya and Josephine were best friends at boarding school till the aftermath of a night out clubbing. Freya desperately wants to talk to Jo about the events that ripped their friendship apart, the events that Josephine has avoided speaking or thinking about in more than a decade.
British writer Rebecca Thornton thought her first novel was going to be a rom-com. The story that emerged when she sat down to write surprised her as it isn't romantic or in any way funny. What emerged is an exploration of friendship, betrayal and the dark, disturbing, far reaching effects down the years. What emerged is something that's very, very good.
It's set in the hot-house environment of a high-achieving girls' boarding school in the 1990s. Freya's mother has died but as well as a loving father and brother, she has Josephine – J- to rely on. J's mother is alive but is a very ill paranoid schizophrenic, frequently hospitalised for long periods. J's father works for the Prime Minister and is therefore subsumed by his work. Both girls are doing well, in fact J is head girl and then, that night happens and everything begins to unravel.
Although J has locked out the events of the night, we can guess what happened from the next day's evidence. That's not a criticism though, as that's not the main shock of the book (although once revealed, the details are pretty harrowing). The shock is the extent to which J will go to ensure her success and the effects on both the girls. The clever thing is that they're gradually revealed via chapters alternating between their school days and J as a modern-day 30-something.
I won't give anything away, just suffice it to say that Rebecca's put some work into this book and her research is non-intrusive and spot on. The things Josephine eventually does as a result may seem be pretty extreme, but the fact that she has a burning need to reassure herself and others that she doesn't have her mother's illness echoes back from my own teens. For J, this proof converts itself into an all-encompassing drive to get into Oxford and a similarly authentic inner anger is fermenting behind every step she takes to get there.
So it's dark disturbing and not fun so why is it such a good read? The answer is in the way that Rebecca leads us from page to page, chapter to chapter. We may feel for Freya and be appalled by J but we care about them both. We're in total suspense and want to be there at the end for the girls' sake. When the end comes, it may be tied off rather neatly, but it's an ending of just desserts and is worth every chewed nail we collect on the way.
(Thank you so much Twenty 7 for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like another well-told dark tale of unsettling themes, we just as heartily recommend A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Exclusives: No One Can Hurt You More Than a Friend by Rebecca Thornton at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Exclusives: No One Can Hurt You More Than a Friend by Rebecca Thornton at Amazon.com.
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