"Watching Edie" Camilla Way
This is a true psychological thriller in every sense of the definition! It reminds you how clever, disturbing and gripping a really well written "Grip Lit" novel can be.
Meet Edie. Single, no longer close to her own family, working as a waitress and pregnant. After the birth of her baby she sinks deep into a black oblivion but (literally) out of the shadows, steps Heather, her childhood friend, who comes to her rescue, taking care of the baby so Edie can rest until she is strong enough to engage with motherhood. But from where has Heather suddenly appeared after all these years? And just what exactly did happen between the two women when they were teenagers?
The story is told in two time frames, "Before" and "After". We hear from Edie's point of view and also Heathers. Gradually as the novel progresses we are fed snippets of information, or flashbacks, that continually challenge our views of the characters and constantly force us to keep reassessing our feelings towards the two protagonists as we piece together their pasts.
As an 18 year old, Edie was a confident, popular, attractive girl who was part of the "in" crowd and deeply in love with her boyfriend. Heather was a quieter character, less noticeable and delighted when Edie chose to befriend her and let her tag along to their parties and gatherings. Now the roles are reversed. Edie is vulnerable and Heather is the one who confidently takes over looking after a new born. In that post natal haze, Edie accepts Heather back into her life, wary at first as to why Heather is prepared to help her out so benevolently when the friendship ended years ago in what we are led to believe were far from pleasant circumstances and they have not been in contact since.... And before Edie has fully realised what has happened, weeks have turned into months; Heather has moved in and her over protective, controlling behaviour over Edie's daughter suddenly becomes unsettling and triggers alarm bells to ring full blast.
Edie tries to reclaim her daughter, furtively creeping around to avoid her and sneak out without being challenged or followed. Heather's behaviour is distinctly controlling, unnerving and creepy. Returning from a walk with her baby one day, Edie is invited in for a coffee with her downstairs neighbour - a woman who double bolts the door behind them and seems equally afraid of the world as Edie. She too is haunted by ghosts from the past but has also witnessed more of Heather's odd behaviour. She tells Edie that Heather has been stalking Edie for many months before her baby was born........
All three women are broken. All women have been deeply affected by their pasts and live in fear that it will catch them up and destroy the lives - or half lives as they are all stunted by the burden of the secrets that weigh them down- they have built for themselves.
At times I did find the narrative a little confusing as we jump backwards and forwards and switch between Heather and Edie's point of views. A few times I had to reread sections to figure out which character we were with but it did not stop my enjoyment as I flew through the chapters. I was immediately captivated by the relationship between Heather and Edie and from the outset the tension is so palpable that the cliff hangers make it a compulsive read. From the beginning I was incredibly wary of Heather and wanted to shout out to Edie in her dazed state of fug and mental exhaustion - able to see what was happening and having to watch the action play out helplessly. Way's description and characterisation is excellent and I was right there in the thick of it!
Way's depiction of teenagers is also spot on. She captures the game play, the competition, the unpleasant manipulation by those who are popular over those who just want to be included with real authenticity and vividness. The emotional confusion of being 18 and in love is full of resonance. I do like a novel where your actions as a teenager or friendships from the past come back to haunt you as an adult, when you have the benefit of hindsight and emotional maturity to acknowledge the things you did and are ready to accept the consequences, however devastating.
It's hard to say more without giving anything away. I would highly recommend this book. I started it late one night and could barely put it down. In fact I got up early in the morning so I could finish it in one sitting before the rest of the world got up I was so hooked and so transported to Edie's claustrophobic flat. I had to find out what it was between Heather and Edie and how things would play out.
Way has created brilliantly dysfunctional characters and plays with the reader's emotions and sympathy carelessly, with a real "puling the carpet out from under our feet" kind of ending. This book reminded me of "Sleeping with the Enemy", "Single White Female" and Elizabeth Hayes "Into the Darkest Corner". It really is "Gone Girl" esq - and honestly one of the best psychological thrillers to come out this year. It is sure to be a best seller.
My thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy of the novel in return for an honest and fair review.
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