The It Girl by Ruth Ware is an absorbing read. It unfolds in the past and present, both via our narrator Hannah. In the past she’s starting out at Oxford University, climbing out of her public school past and and navigating the quagmire that is university life – grappling with study and new friends (which I remember as if it wasn’t 35 years ago 🙄 ). And in the present, she’s married, living in Edinburgh and working in a bookshop – never having graduated from university.
Ware doesn’t keep us guessing why as the book opens with Hannah finding the body of her best friend and room-mate April but we’re then taken back to their meeting and the weeks and months leading up to April’s murder.The It Girl
by Ruth Ware
Published by Simon & Schuster UK
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
It was Hannah who found April’s body ten years ago.
It was Hannah who didn’t question what she saw that day.
Did her testimony put an innocent man in prison?
She needs to know the truth.
Even if it means questioning her own friends.Even if it means putting her own life at risk.
Because if the killer wasn’t a stranger, it's someone she knows…
We learn that Hannah was a key witness in the trial that found university employee (porter) John Neville guilty of April’s murder. In the present he’s died in prison… still protesting his innocence. It feels like an unfinished chapter in Hannah’s life will be closed, until she’s contacted by someone convinced Neville was telling the truth and who shares with Hannah some secrets from April’s past.
In that past we’re taken through the pair meeting and Hannah being drawn into a friendship group with April. Interestingly though April is astoundingly charismatic, from the outside looking in it’s easy to see a little bit of April could go a long way. I suspect she’d be less tolerated as one grew older (and less easily impressed or forgiving or something). But we can see her allure. And Hannah sees beneath the surface in many ways. Although mostly with rose-coloured-glasses.
There are a lot of references to ‘class’ hierarchy here and I chuckled to think that children of doctors would be viewed as less-than. When I grew up I had a friend whose parents were teachers but didn’t come across others whose parents were university-educated until I went away to university and lived in a residential college resplendent with private school kids whose parents were doctors, accountants and lawyers. Thankfully, like Hannah’s friends (well mostly) they seemed to accept me for who I was rather than where I came from.
Hannah’s husband is very much against her delving into the past and he has his reasons. He was there at the time and saw the fallout – particularly for Hannah who’s never returned to Oxford, but also because she’s pregnant with their child.
I enjoyed this read and Ware delivered twists on cue, revealing secrets along the way. I guessed at part of this but only because I feel like I’ve read an Agatha Christie with a similar ‘act’… though it certainly doesn’t play out as I expected. Readers will also be reminded of the naiveté of their younger selves and even though only 10 years have passed, Hannah’s able to look more objectively back on the person she was at the time and better understand her friends.
As well as a bit of commentary on social classes and the education system, Ware dips briefly into social media as April’s an ‘early’ influencer. We later meet November – who I think was actually a distraction and redundant to the plot (but whatevs) who’s another and both give a glimpse into the sad lives behind the shiny façade.
The It Girl by Ruth Ware is available in some locations but will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in early August 2022.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.