I’m a massive fan of Celia Rees’s historical novels and Witch Child sits firmly on my ‘favourites of all time’ shelf. When I first read the synopsis for her latest novel, This is Not Forgiveness, I felt a little pang of disappointment as I’d been so looking forward to another fantastic historical read. However this was quickly followed by excitement and I was eager to give something different a go.
This Is Not Forgiveness is a tense psychological thriller told from alternating viewpoints of the three main characters, Jamie, Caro and Rob. When gorgeous and unobtainable Caro starts showing an interest in Jamie, he can’t believe his luck. He’s heard the rumours about her, particularly from his sister Martha who hates the girl with a passion, but he doesn’t care. He can’t help but be attracted to her impulsive and dangerous attitude.
But over the summer Jamie comes to realise there’s more to Caro than anyone even realised. Caro’s deeply political beliefs are becoming increasingly extremist, which Jamie feels less and less comfortable with. And that’s not his only worry. His older brother, Rob, who was injured out of the army in an explosion in Afghanistan, is falling apart; drinking heavily and becoming angry and violent. Separately, Caro and Rob are enough to keep Jamie awake at night, but when the two come together no one could have predicted the outcome.
Saying this book is different to anything I’ve read by this author before is an understatement. Firstly it’s set very much in modern times and Celia Rees proves she has as much a handle on the youth of today as she does on those in her historical novels. Her tiny observations and detailing are rich and evoke clear images making her characters both main and minor very real.
The book starts with the ending, which I wasn’t immediately aware of and prompted a little bit of confusion, as did the switching narrative. It took me a few chapters to fully get into the stride of this book and understand which viewpoint I was actually hearing from. Once I did though I couldn’t stop reading. It isn’t an easy book at all. The characters in this book are flawed and damaged, the themes are political and the ending is as desperate a climax as the lead up to it. It’s thought provoking and very much a story of our times.
This Is Not Forgiveness is at times shocking and uncomfortable reading and isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. Personally I thought it was a compelling, edgy thriller that left me thinking about its themes once I finished the last page. While it doesn’t quite match up to Rees’s historical novels for me, it does nothing to waiver my admiration for this author. I do hope for more historical from Celia Rees, but I also look forward to seeing what else she may come up with eagerly.
Published by Bloomsbury February 2012 (PB) Kindle version available for download now.
thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.