The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee
|The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Liz Green|
|Summary: A comatose assault victim and her teenaged friend take turns narrating this suspenseful and intriguing thriller as they piece together, separately, the events leading up to the attack.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 294||Date: March 2016|
Contemporary writers are mining a rich seam of psychological thrillers and, within this genre, I seem to be particularly attracted to stories featuring comatose protagonists. Comatose protagonists? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? True, you do normally expect a protagonist to, well, do something. And Deborah Mee's heroine Sarah does nothing at all, other than listen, and try and remember, from her unconscious state. In her narrative she offers us nothing more than fractured memories and snippets of conversations from around her bedside. Yet with these meagre tools she helps the reader build up a vivid picture of what is happening around her, of her own character, and of the events leading to her hospital admission. As a reader you gradually piece together what made Sarah what she is today. At first you see an apparently successful career woman in a loving marriage but, as layers are gradually removed, what lies beneath becomes apparent. Sarah's controlling husband has a sinister brother who comes to sit by her bedside, while her toxic mother wages an ongoing war of words with Sarah's spineless father... At times I wanted to weep for what happened to Sarah; at other times I wanted to scream at her for letting it happen.
Sarah's narrative alternates with that of her unlikely friend, Kelly, a 14-year-old schoolgirl. Kelly transports us to a depressingly realistic sink estate school with its gangs and knives and petty cruelties. She also observes the world of adults around Sarah, narrating from the sidelines -- generally from the hospital visitor's chair or from outside her living room, listening in. Sarah has befriended the rather vulnerable Kelly (although as the story progresses we see a subtle shift in who is supporting whom) and Kelly, for all her brashness, her street smarts, and her grating use of the f-word, is likeable, canny, funny, and highly protective of Sarah.
The two narrative voices are worlds apart, yet equally authentic. Kelly often quotes Sarah and her bumbling attempts to replicate Sarah's more sophisticated vocabulary remind us of the child that she still is. The career woman and the schoolgirl are an incongruous mix and their friendship is at first sight rather surprising but don't be fooled. Deborah Bee knows what she is doing and she carefully steers the story from the very first line.
This is a book with a mystery at its core (how -- and why? -- did Sarah end up in a coma?). But there is more to it than that. It is a tale of good versus evil, righting wrongs, revenge. The loneliness -- and fear -- of the hospital bed. The nature of friendship. Survival. You may find by the end of the book that the moral lines have become rather blurred but some readers -- myself included -- will celebrate the fact that justice comes in all shapes and sizes.
Deborah Bee has produced a page-turner with a tight plot and fresh narrative voices. What more could you want? Oh yes, the ending. Beautifully satisfying, and suitably surprising. When I finished the last line I thought yes, justice has been served. And wondered what her next book will be about.
For another coma-whodunnit-mystery, read the compelling Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee at Amazon.com.
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