Tuesday, 7 March 2017
#EverythingButTheTruth #Review #GillianMcAllister
Just how much can you trust the person you love?
I judged this book by its cover. I saw it on twitter and knew I had to get hold of it and read it. The dark, brooding scene on the front , the two people stranded in the water, the title, the strap line - oh yes, this just had to be my kind of psychological thriller. And it is.
Set in Newcastle and Oban, McAllister has chosen the perfect setting for a domestic noir novel. She carefully weaves a tale of love, trust, secrets, revenge and consequence against a back drop of a cold, isolated and hugely atmospheric location which emphasises the suspense and intensity of the character's emotions. The premise of taking a couple who have fallen head over heels in love, then find themselves pregnant and embarking on a life together after such a whirlwind romance is engaging and one bursting with possibilities and potential.
"It felt as if Jack and I were stretched thin, like cheap cling film, pocked and wrinkled; trying to get to know each other, our families, all our friends, all at once, all before the baby came. We were in a relationship moving at speed, as if we had jumped on to a freight train."
What do this couple really know about each other? Does the fact you love someone mean that you can trust them?
"So then I knew his favourite book. Not the one he'd talk about at dinner parties, but his real, uncool favourite. I thought it mattered, that we had climbed a rung on the ladder of fully knowing each other. But we hadn't of course. Up against everything, knowing his favourite book didn't matter at all."
I really liked the way that Everything But The Truth is split in to different parts: Who? What? Why? It's a great way to structure the book as essentially it asks the questions we want to find out at that point in the story. It also adds tension as we wonder just what is going to be revealed and what the questions refer to.
The story is also split in the past and present. In the present day, we watch what happens to Rachel's life once she clicks on an email of Jack's without him knowing. It's a mysterious, uncomfortable sounding email and one that she can't forget about even though she wishes she had never read it. Who it is from, what does it mean and why he has received it? When Rachel gently tries to probe Jack about the email she looked at, he denies getting it and Rachel states "That was the moment that everything sprang from." This is where the little white lie begins and Rachel is forced to look deeper at their relationship, beyond the physical attraction she feels for this man and try to find what it is that he is trying to hide from her.
Then, returning to the past, we meet Rachel before she is with Jack, while she is a medic working in the hospital in Newcastle. The relevance of this storyline is unclear at first but as the novel progresses it is used to reveal more about Rachel's character and then finally becomes deliciously intwined with Jack's hidden past and Rachel's desperate search for the truth. After all, aren't we all hiding something? And while Rachel becomes so fixated on the truth behind Jack's lies she has to confront the atonement she seeks for her own.
McAllister spends time building up a detailed picture of Rachel and Jack's relationship. The contrast between Jack and Rachel's previous boyfriend Ben are effective in revealing more about her character as well as dropping a few clues, hints and warnings about what might be coming. I found myself quite caught up in the excitement, passion and energy in this new relationship. McAllister explores an interesting dilemma of being completely in love with someone, pregnant and desperate to believe in them but also torn between knowing there might be something lurking in their past. What becomes of you both when you start reading more and more into each sign, conversation, friendship, action? What happens once you start to lose trust in someone? And once you've asked, "You can never take this question back."
It's a very contemporary novel. IPhones, emails, Facebook pages are all perfect places for secrets to be unearthed, a bed of mysterious communications and can make tracking someone and finding out about someone easier than ever. There are ways of accessing information about people more anonymously and McAllister's invention of the Wayback Machine is perfectly sinister.
I also enjoyed how Rachel handles her fears, how she carefully treads around Jack trying to see if her concerns are valid or paranoia and how he repeatedly reassures her and appears to be confident, dismissive and so calm and attentive that the reader begins to wonder whether it is Rachel whom we can trust; is she a reliable narrator? Is she looking for something that just isn't there? What issues has she brought with her or displaced upon this seemingly flourishing, successful, happy relationship?
I really enjoyed how many layers McAllister introduces to her domestic noir novel. There is more to this story than secrets and lies. There are moral questions and ethical dilemmas. McAllister takes the "What if?" question and plays with it. What if you make that small decision? What if you keep asking questions? What if you can't accept the consequences for your actions? What if that small niggle just won't go away? And then, once she has added the many layers to the plot, the reader is hooked, enthralled as they watch the characters unravel in front of them.
Everything But The Truth is very well written. McAllister strikes a perfect balance of plot driven, spine-chiling, page turning sentences peppered with imaginative prose and great description.
"That laid back tone didn't fit with his facial expression, like a curdled cake mixture beginning to separate."
McAllister uses Rachel's medical background to create some clever analogies, for example, when she decides to ask Jack again about the email she sees it as a "tidying up exercise".
"I just wanted to know it was nothing. Like doing a repeat blood test to clarify the problem had gone away when I knew that it had."
I think her use of metaphor, imagery and turn of phrase often caught me out with their creativity and effect. When Rachel is on a phone call to a friend McAllister writes:
"Audrey hesitated. I could hear it, like seeing a typing sign on my iPhone that disappeared and reappeared as its sender drafted and redrafted."
Best line in the book?
"It's a spectrum isn't it? Trust."
McAllister is a writer to watch. And I shall be watching.
Everything But The Truth is published on the 9th March 2017 by Penguin.
I have been stalking Gillian on social media and discovered these fantastic podcasts that she has produced with Holly Seddon (Try Not To Breathe). The interviews and conversations are interesting, honest and full of tips, advice, support and anecdotes. If you feel like having Gillian and Holly round for a cuppa then whack on their podcasts and treat yourself to an hour of their company. I can't get enough. Check them out at @HonestAuthors
I am an author. Everything But The Truth, my debut novel, is coming out with Penguin in March 2017 and I am absolutely terrified. I like my very orange cat, reading books in bed while it rains, taking baths so hot they turn my skin pink and that moment where you think ‘what if . . . ‘ and a novel idea is born.
Follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)