EXCERPT: The photograph tumbled across the grass, blown by a short, cool gust of November wind. It slowed for a moment and the girl in the image was flipped onto her face. Across the other side of the oval, behind the old camellia hedge near the north gate, the girl herself lay equally still. Her school uniform had been lifted, well above regulation length, by the playful bend in her left leg. Where her upper body had taken the blow, bone had sheared the fragile nerves of her spinal cord, leaving her neck thrust sideways. Her nose had bled only briefly, the blood trickling like a single tear-drop into the curve of her lip. A shadow loomed over the trench in which she lay. After a moment, it disappeared and all was still again.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Twenty-five years after losing her friend Tessa in a tragic accident, Emma’s life is happy and settled. She rarely thinks about the day that Tessa fell to her death, or the secret that she made Emma swear to keep just hours before. But when her marriage implodes, Emma and her daughter find themselves unexpectedly moving into the headmaster’s former cottage on the grounds of her old school – Denham House. And it’s here she finds the photograph: an explicit image of Tessa, looking directly at the camera.
Between catching up with old friends Marlee and Clementine, who are home for a reunion, and the demands of single parenthood, Emma has plenty to distract her… but she can’t shake the image of the photograph. Or the thought that it’s proof of something she had long suspected: Dr Brownley, now headmaster, was involved with Tessa. Was it a mistake to keep quiet about what she knew?
Marlee and Clementine have their own complex feelings about returning to their hometown. And when Emma starts to question what really happened to Tessa, each woman must deal with the consequences of decisions they made all those years ago. Because the more Emma digs into the past, the more she discovers that everyone remembers it differently, and that the innocent schoolgirls she thought she knew are hiding some very big secrets.
MY THOUGHTS: After a good start, this read just fizzled out for me. It took the first third of the book for things to come together so that I could see the connection between the various characters, and then after that it all got a bit messy….right through to the end which was an anti-climax.
I believe that this is the author’s debut novel, and she can write, as is demonstrated by the excerpt above and another which I will add shortly. I think it is more the lack of cohesion in the story that didn’t work for me. That and the anti-climactic ending.
There was a lot going on in this book, perhaps a little too much at times. A word of advice? – keep it simple.
A lot is made of an email that Emma replied to all on….but really? It wasn’t worth the amount of page space taken up by it. There were far more interesting angles that could have been explored. Emma is certain that Dr Brownley is responsible for Tessa’s death. The cottage that she moves into when her marriage breaks up and where she finds the photo was, at the time of Tessa’s death, occupied by Dr Brownley. BUT, he for a time had a flatmate there….an art teacher. A male art teacher. The photo is artfully posed. This could have been an interesting possibility, but the art teacher is never mentioned again, so I really can’t see why he was mentioned in the first place.
While this is not a book I am going to recommend, this is an author I am going to keep an eye on. I believe she shows promise.
My favorite quote from Good Little Liars: ‘Tessa was a chapter from a book she had read long ago. It was a crazy idea that you could take that book off the shelf to read it again and the words would be different.’
THE AUTHOR: Sarah Clutton is an Australian author and former lawyer whose debut novel, Good Little Liars, mixes suspense and domestic drama with nuanced characters. Having majored in psychology in her original degree, Sarah is fascinated by people. How does the past shape us? Can we can learn empathy? What determines the outcomes when moral and legal boundaries collide?
Sarah’s work earned her the Dymocks/Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction Scholarship in 2018, a coveted national award run by one of Australia’s most successful commercial fiction authors and sponsored by Australia’s largest book chain. An alumna of the Australian Writers’ Centre novel writing course, and with a mostly-finished Master of Arts (in Writing) that she has no interest in finishing because she prefers making stuff up, Sarah lives with her family in the very pretty tourist town of Bowral, near Sydney. She has lived all over Australia, and if she didn’t live in Bowral, she would live in Hobart, the most beautiful city she knows.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Good Little Liars by Sarah Clutton for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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