Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The Other Half Lives - Sophie Hannah
What would you do if your boyfriend told you he'd killed someone? That he'd killed a woman years ago? This is the premise for Sophie Hannah's The Other Half Lives. Ruth Bussey knows the meaning of heartache and pain, she's felt the kind that rips a person apart and nearly destroys you. She's left everything she's ever known, relocated and met and fallen in love with a man: Aidan Seed, a man whose love she feels she doesn't deserve. Aiden, haunted by a past he's never quite able to escape confides in Ruth telling her of a woman he killed years ago: Mary Trelease, the name of a woman Ruth knows to be very much alive.
What struck me about The Other Half Lives is the way it jumps perspective from each of the main characters. Each of the characters has a secret buried within their past and are each so emotionally damaged and stunted by these secrets that they now inform and define their characters. Each of the characters and their secrets are intricately intertwined with each other that as the plot unfolds each chapter is like pieces of a puzzle coming together and finding its place.
The plot itself is full of deception and misdirection so that the path the reader thinks it is on is actually being weaved in the opposite direction, also just when the reader thinks they have it all figured it out a hurdle is thrown in.
The plot in this story is mainly pushed along by the female leads. When we first meet Ruth Bussey is a woman about to tell a story so crazy that it couldn't possibly have been imagined: her boyfriend is convinced he killed a woman - a woman who is very much alive and kicking. As the story moves along Ruth desperately tries to convince the police of Aidan's sanity and at the same time convince Aidan of his innocence - a task not easily done. Charlotte (Charlie) is a policewoman who after a terribly bad and trumatic judgement call has been demoted and is now pushing paper. Charlie is also newly engaged to a detective with whom her relationship lacks intimate contact and with whom everyone is convinced she is making a mistake marrying.
What I thought: I've never really been one for thrillers, I've always found them heavy on the action and violence and found it hard to identify with the characters but The Other Half Lives was a pleasant surprise. It is intelligently written with a plot that moves along at an exciting pace and kept me engaged and contained well rounded (if not a slightly damaged) characters which were identifiable but which I also found myself caring about and rooting for. There were moments of sweetness and tenderness between the characters, perfectly portrayed moment of awkwardness and moments that sent a shiver of fear down my spine. The writing was witty which at times took out the bite of some of the more fearsome moments. Overall a book I would highly recommend. I would give it five out of five stars.