You know how sometimes you’re watching or reading something and a character is wronged or cheated in some way and you get really irrationally angry on their behalf? Yes? I hope so, because that’s exactly how I felt reading this book.
Don’t get me wrong–I enjoyed it a lot—and obviously I cared enough that I was pissed on behalf of an entirely fictional character!
Documentary film maker Catherine and husband Robert have just moved house. Catherine had to gently push their (difficult) 25yr old son Nicholas into shared accommodation in an attempt to make him more independent; but it means they’ve been able to downsize. So, everything’s going swimmingly and when Catherine lies back one night and opens a book on her bedside table.
She’s not far into The Perfect Stranger, before she realises she’s reading about her own life. And not the life that others know, but a time in her life she’s kept secret from everyone, including Robert and Nicholas.
What comes next is basically the unravelling of several lives over something which took place twenty years earlier.
Catherine tries to find out who’s written the book and why, although she seems—at times—hamstrung in her efforts.
And then there’s the book’s author, convinced Catherine has ruined his life and desperate for revenge; a man who won’t rest until her life is in tatters as well.
Interestingly it’s hard to be overly fond of many of her characters as Knight presents them warts and all. A good thing, of course. We’re mostly in Catherine’s head so it’s easy to sympathise with her, although I did find her inaction frustrating.
I note some readers suggested Catherine’s behaviour (which they believed to be unrealistic) to be a flaw of the book but I was far more comfortable with Knight creating a character who just didn’t behave as we expected them to. (Both then and now!)
The strength of this novel is in the plot itself. Knight certainly keeps us guessing. I won’t reveal too much about the characters because we’re offered revelations throughout the novel. Nothing is what we expect. It’s shocking, frustrating, ire-inducing and addictive all at the same time. A great debut novel from Knight.
Disclaimer by Renee Knight will be published by Random House UK Transworld Publishers on 9 April 2015.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.