Wow. This other girl delivered. Hats off to Ms. Hawkins for upping the ante on the psychological thriller genre. The narrative is deviously plotted and perfectly paced. What could have led to an implausible storyline instead delivers a complex story that is all too believable. That’s all you need to know. The less you read about this book, the more interesting the ride. I promise.
'Death was not an intellectual conceit. It was an existential black hole, an animal riddle, both problem and solution, and the grief it inspired could not be fixed or bypassed like a faulty relay, but only endured.'
What an outstanding piece of fiction, this reached far beyond the summer’s must read thriller field, call me impressed. It has been well reviewed, but what I found most compelling was the way it addresses the randomness of events and the full human import of their aftermath.
A plane crash is not simply the total of time line + mechanical elements + human elements. It is an incalculable tragedy, one that shows us the ultimate finiteness of human control over the universe and the humbling power of collective death.'
As you might note from these passages, the writing far exceeds the norm for the genre and provides a depth that gave me far more to think about than plot and characterization, though they are well done too. It’s quite powerful when an author can provide us a gripping tale while also pondering the significance of our lives.
A winter scene at twilight. The girl stands in the foreground against a silver birch, a pale hand pressed to its bark, staring out at the skaters on the frozen river....A single cataract of daylight at the horizon, a meadow dazzled beneath a rent in the clouds, then the revelation of her bare feet in the snow…Somehow she’s walked into this scene from outside the painting, trudged onto the canvas from our world, not hers.
Dominic Smith opens his elegantly-wrought novel with this haunting description of the painting that is the centerpiece of his story and ensures it is firmly ingrained in your subconscious. And like the painting, this is a novel of layers and themes that move forward and backward across time and there is no way to aptly describe what a beautiful experience lays within its pages. Its graceful prose made me joyful with every page, its structure only added intrigue to the mystery, but the quiet moments of narrative as reflection are what left me speechless.
’There are pockets of time, she thinks, where every sense rings like a bell, where the world brims with fleeting grace.’
Yet don’t be afraid that this is filled with ostentatious writing or that it’s not a compelling story because the intertwined and alternating characters and timelines never fail to keep you in their thrall. It’s just that I’m positively queer for this type of writing, the way it carries the story forward, but stops you every now and then so that you can savor a beautifully crafted sentence or phrase and live within its deeper meaning.
’You carry grudges and regrets for decades, tend them like gravesite vigils, then even after you lay them down they linger on the periphery, waiting to ambush you all over again.’
This is a beautifully crafted and well-researched novel that reads somewhere between historical fiction and art world mystery and I absolutely loved it.
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