This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kay Brooks
The time Anna spent at Oxford University was idyllic right up to the end when she was betrayed and her heart was broken by more than one of her close friends. Having actively tried to put the tragic memories to one side and move on, Anna is reluctant to return after seventeen years. A chance meeting with someone from the past revives a long-lost curiosity to discover what has happened since that fateful night in Oxford and whether there could be a place for some of the people from her past in her future.
The story is presented in five parts and moves deftly between Anna’s current life and her past. Victor, a former love interest, is the first person brought in to the story from her past and he leads Anna to regain contact with Meg, who is described as being innocent and naive. From here, we are introduced to the other characters – each will play a large part throughout the plot – including the highly sophisticated actress, Clarissa, and the mysteriously marginalised Barnaby. To begin with, the characters all seem very distant from one another and I found it hard to imagine that they had ever been close friends. They also all seem successful on the surface in comparison to Anna, whose life is a bit of a catastrophe.Delving into Anna's history, it becomes apparent that it is very differences between the various members of the group that bring them together; they all stand out as outsiders. Meg is engaged at a young age, Clarissa is fighting against the expectation that she will follow in her famous mother’s footsteps as an actress and we also meet Keith, who seems confused and depressed. To begin with, it is easy to see why Anna is attracted to the friendship group. They are impulsive, supportive of one another and good fun. I kept trying to imagine what the betrayal might be or where it came from. It seemed that two thirds of the novel were leading up to a huge revelation that was going to destroy Anna’s life.
When the revelations came, it was difficult to understand how some of the friends who had seemed so genuinely caring and protective of one another could suddenly become so deliberately callous and others so nonchalant about Anna’s pain. While I felt Mercer showed the breakdown of relationships due to distance well, it seemed that some characters had personality transplants. They became people that I could not sympathise with as I did not understand their motivation for the way they behaved. Unfortunately, from this moment, I felt unconcerned whether Anna made links with these people again as the very traits I had liked about them had disappeared so the betrayal could take place. I have to admit to reading the rest of the novel half-heartedly and being slightly relieved when turning the last page. I also felt the whole situation with Anna’s estranged father was rather pointless as it didn’t reveal anything poignant about her character or seem to go anywhere. Not to mentionm, his much hinted at past was never revealed.
Despite this, Mercer does build up tension wonderfully and creates a painfully realistic character in Keith, who struggles with his mental health, self-worth and identity throughout the novel.
A great build up with a disappointing end.