Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Nearest Thing to Crazy - Elizabeth Forbes



‘Are you sure you’re not imagining all of this?’

I won't reveal too much about the actual storyline to this novel, because it would ruin things; I’m glad I didn’t know too much about it before I read it and I’d advise you don’t read too many reviews or features about it until you’ve read the book in case any of them tip you off a bit. I’ve tried not to disclose anything that would spoil it. For now, think about this: have you ever had a conversation with someone and then they've later denied saying things to you that you distinctly remember them having said? Do you begin to question your own memory, your own sanity? Imagine this, writ large, and you have the crux of this chilling tale.

The author pays homage to Rebecca in the manner in which the main character's name is not revealed at first. A newcomer, Ellie, arrives to rent a place in a small close-knit countryside village. She's a novelist who hopes to work on her book there and also makes an effort befriend the locals. Dan and his wife Cass are part of that circle, and they, along with their affluent friends, all welcome Ellie. However, Cass soon comes to see a different side to Ellie, finding unsettling things out about her and feeling Ellie is excluding her from things in subtle ways, and Cass can't understand why no one else sees it or indeed believes what Cass tells them. When the doubting extends to her husband Dan and their daughter Laura, Cass's world begins to crumble around her and she is caused to question her own sanity. 

A nightmarish situation develops for the central character, Cass. She begins to feel alienated from her friends and family, everyone she thought she could rely on and trust. It was frightening to think that this could happen, but the way Elizabeth Forbes tells it, I believed that it could.

'I stood for a moment, feeling alone and isolated, and yet here I was amongst my closest friends. Everyone was chatting, laughing, relaxing, having a happy time together without a care in the world, and then there was me. It was all so subtle, almost subliminal.' 

Is it really happening to her as she thinks it is, or is it all imagined, in her head? It's cleverly written, and made me question what was true, who could be trusted? Through Cass, the author captures the terrifying struggle to retain your sanity when all around you there ostensibly seems to be proof that you are seriously losing your grip on it. 

‘It was a nasty, creepy feeling of something dark and insidious gathering around me, and because it had no face or name I didn’t know how I was going to fight it.’

This tale was really well done, very cleverly told, I thought. Cass is the main narrator; written in her first person voice almost throughout, we are thrown into her mind and into the unsettling experiences and torment she goes through. From time to time, though, there is an interruption to Cass's narrative, and a passage in italics, when the voice of Ellie takes over, and this device leads us to question who we can trust and believe, what is the reality, how has it become distorted? I liked the additional complexity of Cass's difficult relationship with her mother too. 

Sometimes books of this ilk don’t work out as well as I hope they will, or are initially compelling but then fizzle out a little; but for me this one absolutely did hold up to it’s promise and was utterly gripping, with a great build up of the suspense and tension and some nice twists in the tale.

The cover is appropriately unsettling; a hand seemingly losing grip despite the tension and strain to hold on that is visible, and the image being jagged and distorted.

This was a complete and utter page-turner of the best kind. A riveting, chilling, tense, psychological tale that grabbed hold of me and begged to not be put down until I had finished.


Published by Cutting Edge Press

Thank you to the author and the publisher for sending a copy of this novel to read and give an honest review. 

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like a gripping read, everything I expected Sophie Hannah's Little Face to be but alas wasn't.

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  2. I've got this one on my wishlist it sounds great :)

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