Author: Claire Fuller
Genre: General Fiction
Format: Hardcover 288 pages
Release Date: 2 August 2018
Publisher: Fig Tree
I found this book in my lovely library when I was browsing one lunchtime. I remembered reading such good reviews about this one last year I quickly snapped it up and couldn’t resist starting it the very next day. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them – Cara first: dark and beautiful, clinging to a marble fountain of Cupid, and Peter, an Apollo. It is 1969 and they are spending the summer in the rooms below hers while Frances writes a report on the follies in the garden for the absent American owner. But she is distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she discovers a peephole which gives her access to her neighbours’ private lives.
To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to spend time with her. It is the first occasion that she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes till the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.
But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence of that summer, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand all their lives forever.
Frances is an intriguing character to say the least. She’s spent most of her 39 years looking after her mother and it doesn’t seem as if she’s had much of a social life or much of any kind of social interaction at all. She’s completely inexperienced when it comes to relationships of any kind whether they be of a romantic nature or even friendships. So when Frances moves to a run down English country house it’s no wonder she is completely taken in by Cara and Peter.
I felt a little sorry for Frances. She’s one of those types that seems easily led and more than anything just yearns for acceptance. Cara is a bit unhinged and seems only too pleased to recount her life story to her willing audience of one: Frances.
The story is told from Frances point of view as she relives her story to a vicar whilst she is on her death bed. There’s something though that she’s not telling him and there’s an underlying sense of unease from the vicar as he tries to prise out from Frances what really happened that summer.
The setting for this book is perfect. The run down, dilapidated nature of the house where Frances, Cara and Peter spend their summer mirrors the imperfect nature of the friendship these three share. I was on the edge of my seat reading eager to find out what secrets the walls of this house was going to share.
The ending came really suddenly and I almost wasn’t prepared for it. The whole way through the plot quietly simmers away whilst we follow the unlikely friendship that begins to blossom and then all of a sudden – wham! The ending is very bitter sweet, which ties in nicely with the title. I felt the author did a wonderful job of drawing out the tension whilst still keeping me interested to read on and find out what happens. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and it definitely won’t be the last.
About the Author
Claire Fuller is the author of Bitter Orange (2018), Swimming Lessons (2017), which was shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. http://www.clairefuller.co.uk
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