Book review: What came before

Sunday, June 15, 2014 Permalink

Anna George’s book starts with a bang:

‘My name is David James Forrester. I’m a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife. This is my statement.’

We then follow David’s movements as he decides what to do next. The lawyer in him knows he needs to be prepared for what comes next, but the man and husband in him can’t stop thinking about What Came Before.

The story of David and Elle is narrated by both characters: David, trying to deal with what he’s just done; and Elle who finds herself floating above her own body which is ‘still’ on the laundry room floor. A little of the story is also shared by Mira, Elle’s sister-in-law and best friend.

cover45365-mediumI really didn’t dive into this novel with enthusiasm. In fact, I almost put it aside several times before finally getting hooked.

Whether it was because I like my thrillers and mystery novels to be cryptic whodunnits; or because there seemed nowhere for the novel to go; or whether it was because I just found some of the prose difficult to deal with I’m not sure.

The first two issues are really a product of the type of novel it is – starting at the end with a circular story of sorts; but the latter interested me.

I’m not precious. Indeed I swear like a trooper and no swear words are really off-limits and crassness doesn’t bother me.

I was surprised therefore at my reaction to early parts of the novel (re David’s ‘hawking’ and the language of the toilet scene) which used words and descriptions which seemed out of place (crass for the sake of being crass) – as if the author / editor was trying to shock readers or appear kinda hip. (Of course I saw an early version of the novel, so this may change.)

However… I did want to know exactly what happened between the initially-in-love David and Elle, which eventually led to his violence.

It would have been simple for Anna George to take the easy way out and portray David as a consistently dangerous and violent man; however for much of the novel, we see him as moody and (well) damaged. I suspect he’s far more realistic than a man who doesn’t have the soft and apologetic side.

As for Elle, the fact that we get to live inside her mind (before and after) means we’re privy to EVERYTHING she’s thinking.

Recently here in Australia the ‘Why do abused women stay with their spouses?’ debate has reared its ugly head and Elle explains it well.

I was a tad #meh about the very end, but second half (or last third) of What Came Before made the book an enjoyable one for me.

What Came Before will be released via Penguin on 25 June 2014.

I received an early review copy of the book through Penguin Australia and NetGalley.