This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
I hadn’t read any Louise Candlish before being sent this book. I’d heard really positive reviews of The Day You Saved My Life and just hadn’t got round to reading it, so was delighted to receive her latest one to review.
The Disappearance of Emily Marr begins with someone witnessing a tragic accident, unaware of the people involved or the events leading up to it. It’s a shocking, compelling opening, and drew me in right away. And then you hear about Tabby, as she arrives on the French Ile de Re, without friends, money or hope. She has been travelling for a while but recently split up with her boyfriend Paul, is unwilling to return to an unhappy home life in England, and is running out of options. In less than congenial circumstances she meets Emmie, another English woman on the island who, like Tabby, seems to be alone – and wants to keep it that way. Tabby is grateful for the kindness Emmie shows her, but she is also intrigued as to her background, and why she’s so keen to live a hermit-like existence.
Tabby’s story is interspersed with Emily's, starting a couple of years before as she and her boyfriend Matt are moving into a small, out of place flat at the end of Walnut Grove – a beautiful, exclusive road in London. Almost unwittingly, she gets invited to a Friends’ Association of Walnut Grove Christmas party. She gets a glimpse into their world of champagne and high-flying careers in medicine and the press, and she also meets Arthur Woodhall. He is reserved, less judgemental and dismissive than the others, and Emily can’t help but be drawn to him.
The Disappearance of Emily Marr combines mystery, tragedy and scandal with an incredible love story. Both Emily and Tabby’s narratives are absorbing, as Emily is swept up in a way she never considered possible, and Tabby gets closer to the secrets she knows she shouldn’t be unearthing. As the book progresses the stories start to converge, and I had great fun trying to guess how things fitted together though – I'm not ashamed to admit – I got the twists and turns completely wrong, and was satisfactorily gobsmacked. I'm also excellent at forgetting short, disjointed prologues (in films as well as books), so I didn’t spot the build up to the tragic accident mentioned above, and was clutching the book, internally squealing (at least I hope it was internal) when it happened.
The settings of Walnut Grove and the picturesque Ile de Re are both beautiful in their own ways, and I could imagine the grand mansions and leafy canopy Emily was so drawn towards, and the cobbles, sparkling sea and bustling tourists of Tabby’s French hideaway. Emily and Tabby are both compelling heroines, neither weak-willed though certainly with vulnerabilities, and I’m not sure I could choose a favourite. In places I found the text quite dense, with lots of internal monologues and, while they are an important part of the story, I occasionally felt bogged down by them. On the whole though, I was far from bogged, my fingers itching to turn the page over to find out what would happen next.
The Disappearance of Emily Marr is a captivating, emotional book full of heartbreak, deception, redemption and love, and if anyone sees the ending coming then I take my hat off to you!
Louise Candlish's website