Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Into the Darkest Corner

By Becky Gulc

"Into the Darkest Corner" is the debut novel by Elizabeth Haynes. I knew I had to buy this book when it received a glowing review on the TV Book Club earlier this year. Instantly, this book sounded like one which would grip me and so I waited until I was about to go on holiday and went to an actual bookshop and bought it (doesn’t happen often anymore thanks to the Internet!). Firstly, it’s probably important to point out that this isn’t chick lit (in fact it was located in the crime section of the shop) but if you like to mix things up a bit in your reading (I seldom read ‘crime’ fiction) you should definitely give this book a read. I also checked with Elizabeth that she was happy for me to review her work on the Chick Lit Central blog.

So what’s the book about? Here is the synopsis:
Catherine has been enjoying the single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic, spontaneous – Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.
But there is a darker side to Lee. His erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, and trusting no one, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything.
This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense.
(Courtesy of Elizabeth Hayne's website.)

This is a book I simply couldn’t put down. Never mind the cocktails on my holiday, I wanted an early night so I could get back to reading this book! It is truly gripping from start to finish; it’s scary at times as you really enter the mind-set of Cathy and feel her fears with her.

The subject matters of domestic violence and OCD are both handled delicately and whilst I thankfully have no direct experience of either, I’ve spoken to women and men who have experienced domestic violence in my day job and Elizabeth certainly does well at handling such sensitive subjects and sheds light and invokes empathy on these areas which are sometime incomprehensible to an outsider – "Why does she stay with him?" etc. This is helped by the narrative structure, alternating between the past and present throughout, we immediately know Lee is dangerous; we immediately know Cathy is struggling and isolated in the present day.

We see how bubbly and carefree Cathy falls in love with Lee to begin with, we understand why she puts up with his obsessive and violent behaviour and we understand why even when Lee is sentenced to prison, Cathy is still living a nightmare and how Lee is very much still ever present. As a reader you feel Cathy’s terror, her struggle to move on, you want her to find happiness so much but the flitting between past and present means you know this isn’t the end with the tension bubbling away throughout the novel. Elizabeth writes so well and works in subtle references to events and items which build up tension throughout (anyone who has read this is probably still avoiding red dresses). I was gripped throughout but the last few chapters I was on the edge of my seat, literally not knowing how the book would end. The addition of a sweet, loveable neighbour for Cathy in the form of Stuart only adds to the tension building up in the final chapters of the book.

By the nature of its subject it is a dark story featuring mental and physical abuse and whilst it is quite graphic at times I always felt these elements were essential to the overall story rather than being there for the sake of it. You won’t always feel comfortable reading these parts, but it’s not meant to be a comfortable subject.

It’s hard to be critical of a book I enjoyed so much, but if I were to nit-pick the only thing I would say is that we see Cathy’s friends turn against her, they don’t believe her accounts of events as Lee manipulates them (her parents have passed away so this leaves her very much alone). I would maybe have liked to see more evidence of Lee showing himself to be a good catch to Cathy’s friends in the early chapters. I could see why she fell for him, but not so much why her friend’s would believe him over her unless some strong bonds and manipulation had been formed in the early stages of their relationship. However, there seemed to be little interaction between Lee and her friends to set that scene. But, as I said, that’s just me being picky!

Elizabeth Haynes was awarded the Amazon UK Best Book of 2011 for this book and it couldn’t be more deserved in my opinion. It’s a compelling tale of domestic violence and its after-effects. For any aspiring writers out there it was also great to read that Elizabeth wrote her first draft of this book during NaNoWriMo – November isn’t far away, and I may very well have my first attempt this year thanks to Elizabeth’s inspiration. It is a fantastic, dark and gripping read and I will certainly be reading Elizabeth’s second novel. If you’re ready for a psychological ride you won’t forget in a hurry, pick up this book!

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Shannon said...

Oh, this sounds right up my alley! I recently read a young adult book about domestic violence-it was gripping, and I didn't want to put it down. This one sounds like it would affect me the same way. Thanks for the review! :)


I like this site :: Austin SEO Don Allen information said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to reading many more of her books in the future. Thanks!

Marlene Detierro said...

This intense, gripping account of domestic violence and its aftermath is utterly unputdownable. A stunning debut.

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