"Losing Juliet" June Taylor
Chrissy and Juliet meet at University. Chrissy was sensible, shy and hardworking. Juliet was extrovert, confident and a risk taker. She was bold and a bit reckless. Initially seeking Chrissy out as someone who can help her with her essays, the two then become friends. Chrissy is swept away in the new world of parties, boys and alcohol. The girls take a last minute holiday to France but when they return, they go their separate ways.
Why has Chrissy spent the last twenty years trying to stay away from Juliet? Why has Chrissy not told her daughter about Juliet? Why does she react so badly when Juliet makes contact out of the blue? Why is so frightened of her daughter taking risks?
It's easy to relate to a friendship which forms itself a little too quickly, which is perhaps a little one-sided or where one person has more influence than the other; where two very different people bring out different qualities in each other and then sadly, when someone suddenly calls time on a friendship and cuts that person out of their life. I think this is what will stir any readers' interest in June Taylor's story. That alongside the idea of someone turning up from your past - the one person who knows the one thing you have been trying to hide all these years. It's a great premise.
The reader finds themselves asking questions all the way through the novel, trying to work out which of the women they can trust or rely on for the truth. Are either of them reliable? Are either of them likeable? Who do we feel sympathy for?
Both the characters are fallible and both are flawed. Although we are led to feel more sympathy towards Chrissy, this is sometimes tricky to maintain. It is hard to understand her motivation and behaviour, her fears and obsessions -and it's not until right at the end of the story that the reader can fully understand her character.
As well as Chrissy and Juliet, we have the character of Eloise, Chrissy's daughter. She is perplexed by her mother's reaction towards Juliet. Juliet is exotic, attractive, generous and there seems to be no reason for her mum to refuse to have anything to do with her. But then there are clues sprinkled across the pages that indicate perhaps Juliet isn't as up front as she claims. She knows a little too much about them as they live now, about Eloise, about their routine. She seems to undermine Chrissy and the fact that Eloise begins to lie to her mother in order to meet Juliet immediately increases the tension and suspense.
However I also liked that Eloise feels quite burdened by her mother. At the age of 11 her father made her promise that she would always look after her and never leave her on her own. This is a lot of responsibility for her and does affect the relationship between the women as the novel - and Chrissy's past- unravels.
I really liked the way the story was revealed. Although you can begin to guess what might have happened in France twenty years ago there are a few red herrings along the way and a few further twists in the very last chapters to keep you on your toes. I like it when an author makes you think they have told you everything and then catch you out with a last minute twist. Even when I had kind of guessed what might be coming, I was still keen to read on and still took a sharp intake of breath at the final revelation.
Taylor's writing is well paced and some of the scenes are very well captured. She creates an atmosphere of fear and tension very effectively and when we learn more of Juliet and Chrissy's past, there is a real sense of panic.
Taylor also uses the idea of questions effectively. One character says you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions, but then, what happens when you do? When do the questions stop and what are the answers that you then have to hear?
There is a lot about promises, responsibility, motivations and friendship in this novel. I enjoyed the themes explored by Taylor. I enjoyed the questions she asks about what it means to put someone first, what it means to promise to look after someone always and what it means when you say you would have done the same for them as they did for you. Are these promises just words? Would they really have done the same for each other? Any how do you forgive yourself for those decisions you made in your past?
Secrets also play a large part. Juliet has secrets, and she is secretive about why she has reappeared. She keeps secrets from Chrissy and Eloise even once they have begun to spend time together again. Eloise keeps secrets from her mother. She keeps her visits to Juliet secret. And Chrissy has the biggest secrets of all. Secrets that threaten to destroy the one thing she has been trying to protect for nearly twenty years.
I thought Taylor explored the dynamics between the main characters with conviction and there was certainly enough intrigue, drama and human interest to keep me reading. This is a story that will resonate with many women. Writing a story which is based around friendships, misjudged decisions, finding yourself out of depth, a desperate need to forget and run away from the past are always going to be appealing. Taylor's story has believable characters, a relatable storyline and a good sense of pace, drama and suspense. A satisfying read with some slightly predictable but still enjoyably shocking twists!
Losing Juliet is published on November 25th 2016.
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