Wednesday 27 March 2013

What Have I Done? by Amanda Prowse

Kathryn Brooker watched the life slip from him, convinced she saw the black spirit snake out of his body and disappear immediately through the floor, spiralling down and down.  She sat back in her chair and breathed deeply.  She had expected euphoria or at the very least relief.  What she couldn’t have predicted was the numbness that now enveloped her.  Picturing her children sleeping next door, she closed her eyes and wished for them a deep and peaceful rest, knowing it would be the last they would enjoy for some time.
Published by Head of Zeus in February 2013
323 Pages
Kathryn Brooker is the headmaster's wife. While her husband spends his days disciplining unruly teenagers in the grand halls of Mountbriers Academy, Kathryn spends hers baking scones for her son's cricket match in a beautiful cottage in the manicured school grounds. 
In the evenings, when her husband strides home to compliment her cooking and kiss her hello - ignoring jokes from their children about grown-up lovebirds - Kathryn Brooker is the very picture of a fulfilled wife and mother. Anyone who peered through the downstairs sash window at the four figures sat easily around their scrubbed-pine kitchen table would see a happy family without a care in the world. They would envy Kathryn her perfect life. 
But they would be wrong. Kathryn is trapped in a nightmare. And she is about to do something to change it. Something only a truly desperate woman would do...
*   *  *
Be warned, the opening chapter of this novel is utterly gripping.  Make sure you have ample time set aside to thoroughly immerse yourself!
Amanda Prowse’s heroine Kathryn, (sorry, ‘Kate’) will stick with me for many months to come.  What this lovely lady goes through in this book is morbidly fascinating and how she manages to come out the other end the humble, honest woman that she is, is nothing short of remarkable.  And yet utterly believable.  
From the outside, Kathryn Brooker’s life is perfect and enviable.  Married to a handsome well-respected headmaster of a desirable private school, she spends her days as a stay-at-home mum and housewife.  But there is a dark and closely guarded secret behind their relationship, something which is slowly unveiled throughout the  book. 
I’ll be blunt; this is a tale of the impact of domestic abuse and its impact on not just the victim, but the whole family.  When Kate finally retaliates against the man who has repressed and tormented her over decades, she frees herself from his tyranny, but also loses her treasured children.
The wonderful thing about this book for me, was how completely unpredictable it was.  With some preconceived ideas on my part, as I read, I was sure I was going to be able to predict what was coming next; each time I was surprised.  For example, when Kate meets a handsome, kind man whilst holidaying in St Lucia, I was sure it was going to be an issue of her lying or putting off telling
him what she had done in the past.  But Prowse never draws things out like a bad soap opera, her heroine is honest to a fault.  
As I got towards the end of the book, I was wondering more and more about the choice of title for the book. From the title, I was expecting there to be a point where Kate regretted what she had done, but as I read more and more, there was only utter refusal to regret her actions (and boy was I glad!).  But then, right at the end, without giving too much away, there is an acknowledgement of remorse.  Not for the action itself true, but the wider outcome.  I’m still unsure if I was disappointed by this.  
I’m not sure if it speaks more about my own character or just how well Prowse builds our regard for Kate, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the chapter that details Kate’s final moments with her husband.  The way she uses his own words against him had me smirking with glee.
This is brilliant best-friend style comfy story telling.  Utterly compelling and a total page turner; I was reluctant to put it down for even a second.  


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