Friday, 14 August 2015

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

My name is Amber Fraser. I've just moved in at Number 40, Lime Park Road. You'll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.
This is a lie.

Published by Penguin in May 2015
Pages - 500

When Christy and Joe Davenport are handed the keys to Number 40 on picture-perfect Lime Park Road, Christy knows it should be a dream come true. How strange though that the house was on the market for such a low price. That the previous owners, the Frasers, had renovated the entire property yet moved out within a year. That none of the neighbours will talk to Christy.
As her curiosity begins to give way to obsession, Christy finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of the house's previous occupants - and the dark and shocking secret that tore the street apart . . .

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers has been labeled as a modern day ‘Rear Window’ and this is true to a certain extent as the character of Christy becomes obsessed with her neighbours and watches them, spies on them, through her window. 
The novel is told in a dual narrative, switching between Christie’s third person voice and Amber’s first person ‘confession’. One of the drawbacks of two narrators is that one can be more compelling than the other but I felt that both voices were equally engaging, handled with great skill by Candlish. Amber is the more exciting character, complex and deceptive, but Christy is also intriguing as she is drawn in such a way that we begin to doubt her reliability. This is a novel about the truths we tell ourselves to justify our own actions and the actions of those around us and both these women make the reader question what is fact and what is fiction.
It’s also a novel about our desires to ‘better’ ourselves, wanting more, and living beyond your means, borrowing too much. Does it bring happiness? Or pressure? What if it all comes crashing down? A fable for modern times if ever there was one.
I was utterly captivated by this novel and read it in two days, despite its 500 page length. It’s the tension that keeps the narrative drive going and the need to discover why the Frasers left. I did begin to pick the mystery apart but sometimes knowing what is going to happen, makes the reading all the more full of tension as you wait for the inevitable. And there was an extra revelation at the end…
The writing is clear and crisp and Candlish has a deftness of touch. I will definitely be reading her backlist but will have to make sure to free up blocks of time if her other novels are anything as gripping as this one.

Sophie Duffy's latest novel, Bright Stars is published in October. 

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