This is the author's debut novel, and now that I've finished it, I'm sure it will mark the start of a successful writing career. Like the theme or not, it's hard to avoid getting reeled in by the highly charged interaction between married couple Charlie and Sal (one a high-powered corporate lawyer and the other a stay-at-home spouse). It's an outstanding, emotionally charged work and for that, I give it 5 stars without hesitation and thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with an advance copy for review.
But a thriller? In my mind, not so much. In the Prologue, readers learn right from the git-go who did what to whom. From there, the chapters start at the beginning of the relationship, moving forward to reveal how that ending came to be from the alternating (and very different) perspectives of Sal and Charlie. As one might expect, the tension is palpable and kept me turning pages as fast as my Kindle would allow; but at no time did I suspect that the ending would be anything other than what it was.
And, as immersed as I was in the well-crafted story, the subject matter - disturbing levels of physical and mental abuse - got in my way. One character was intent on justifying behavior for which, IMHO, there is no justification - not ever. The other tried hard to justify tolerance of that behavior; but while I fully understand the reasons for turning the other cheek (largely thanks to the author's flair for writing), the concept of sticking around and taking that kind of abuse, especially when a young child is involved, just isn't in my mental wheelhouse.
I also take issue with a part of the book's official description - though I emphasize that it has nothing to do with the importance of the issue or the quality or relevance of the book itself:
"They say every marriage has its secrets.
But no one sees what happens behind closed doors.
And sometimes those doors should never be opened…
"Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts."
No, No and NO. Although I can't speak for the United Kingdom (the setting for this book), groups and individuals in this country too numerous to count are working hard to raise awareness that love and abuse shouldn't appear in the same sentence. Even more important, those doors need not be shut, but rather opened wide, if for no better reason than to encourage and support victims like Sal, who believe they "cannot" leave. In fact, leave is exactly what they must do - the sooner the better. Suggesting otherwise, especially for the purposes of promoting a nonfiction work, to me is extremely off-putting. There are many other ways to "sell" the appeal of this timely and expertly written story, and my hope is that the publisher will find one of them.
Between You and Me by Lisa Hall (HarperCollins Publishers, March 2016); 2603 KB).