Sunday, 13 August 2017

#Yesterday #FeliciaYap #Review

Yesterday: The thriller of the summer

So this seems to be one of the most talked about books of not only yesterday but also today, tomorrow and undoubtedly every day for many months to come - and not because we're Monos or Duos and only retain details of the last 24 or 48 hours, but because Felicia Yap has written a high concept, highly engaging novel which challenges and engages the reader from the first page until the last. It's not a book you're going to forget in a hurry!

How would it feel if you could only remember the last 24 hours? Welcome to a parallel dystopian world Yap has created where there are only two types of people - those that remember yesterday, and those who remember the day before as well. Each morning you start the day by reading your diary entry to tell yourself the facts about who you are and what you do. But what about when the police arrive at your front door because a dead body has been found? And what if the police claim it is the body of your husband's mistress. And that they think she was killed two days ago? A day now lost to your memory and the only way you can tell what you were doing is by reading your diary......

Not only is the premise of this novel -where people have no memory once they reach adulthood- fascinating in its own right, a big enough hook in itself perhaps, this is also a murder story! What makes this book stand out from other crime thrillers is that the police, and the characters, are all so unreliable - they have their official iDiary's with the 'facts' of their days recorded but how can they really solve such a mystery if they repeatedly lose their memories, thoughts, conclusions and discoveries? Without clear memories then there is too much potential for secrets, lies and hidden pasts. It's a great idea for a novel and one that is going to capture the imagination of any reader.

Yesterday opens with a prologue which seems to talk directly to the reader with the use of the second person and "You". The voice is punchy, direct, challenging and establishes tension, a sense of unhappiness and pending threat. It was a great way of throwing the reader into the story with an anonymous voice who raises numerous questions for the reader. Speaking so directly to the reader also forces them to take note and sit up straight as they feel involved and it's clear this is a book that is going to make the reader work as hard as the characters to figure out the truth.

There are multiple narrative voices in the novel which alternate through the book. Each voice is very distinctive and each section is clearly labelled with a time, date and the character's name which means the reader is never confused or lost - something that could happen so easily in a book where the protagonists can never remember what is happening to them. But on the other hand, there is a lot to absorb and follow.

In between some of the chapters are extracts taken from one of the character's own novel, Government Policy, Legal Documents, newspapers and various quotes. I enjoyed these  - or perhaps admired is a better word for it! These extracts help to establish Yap's world more clearly and inform the reader of some of the more mechanical or practical details about this society. They also reveal more about some of the characters and the pressures and dynamics between them. Of course, what it also reveals is the depth of Yap's planning, research and imagination! Yap is obviously highly intelligent and therefore even though on the surface this is a murder story which has to be solved in 24 hours before all involved forget what they have discovered, this is actually a very sophisticated novel that raises many issues like truth, control, manipulation and power. And I think Yap has enjoyed creating a whole bunch of legal policy, a whole fictional novel and a whole host of other documents to convey her world to the reader.

Yap creates a vivid image of Cambridge and her characters are three dimensional and complicated; she has a very strong voice and can create scenes and moments effectively and efficiently. I liked the repetition of the word 'fact' which challenges the reader to think about what a fact is, what happens when someone else is telling you the facts and whether we are defined by facts or by feelings. Claire's emotional and mental state of mind is controlled by the facts she has learned and they are the only thing she has to guide her through her days. I also liked that the husband, Mark, always summed up his decisions or thought process by listing 4 options. But there wasn't much else to like about him really!!!

Sophia's diary is a real breath of fresh air and her chapters are full of energy, vigour and emotion. She's a great contrast to the rest of the cast and Yap handles the tension, suspense and suspicion over this character with excellent control and exposition. It also shows off Yap's range of writing and skill as an author. It also injects pace and drama.

There are echoes of The Handmaid's Tale, 1984 and Noughts and Crosses in Yesterday but it still feels like Yap has something new to say and combining the concept of memory loss and a divided society with a murder mystery balances some serious questions with a gripping crime plot.

This book discusses the issues of power, truth, control, marriage, equality, normality and how we can become imprisoned by what we are told to believe about ourselves. It makes the reader think about what we record about ourselves, what facts define us, what we can't change and how we respond to all of this.

It is an impressive debut and Yap is clearly a very talented writer with a vivid imagination. This is a multi layered, complex and clever story which has been meticulously planned so that the overall effect is polished, fluent and completely believable.

As I said, no one will forget Yesterday.

Yesterday was published on 10th August 2017 by Wildfire.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

2 comments:

  1. The writing is so good. I think it will divide, though, it's not a story that will appeal to some - I like to relate to characters and in this it's really difficult because they are wooden because of their condition. So then one thinks about how much memory informs a person's personality.... Great review!

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    1. Thank you! Yes - I thought a lot about how my memories are connected with emotions & that these feelings & reactions to events probably define me more , or differently, than the actual facts... I think the author is asking us to think a bit about whether we can only be defined by facts? I'm not being very articulate here but think this book is worthy of a good discussion!!! Thanks for reading my review!!

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