I may be wrong but I think this is the first book by Lucy Clarke that I have read and with apologies for using the standard phrase, it was unputdownable (no other word will do).
The cover is menacing, there is a modern looking staircase with a shadow of an ambiguous looking person on the landing between the 2 flights of steps, blood red title words and recommendations by none other than C.L Taylor and Clare Macintosh-high praise indeed-so even before starting it, you are aware that this is going to be a thrill ride of a book.
In it, the narrator, Elle, has returned to the clifftop home that she has bought with the advance in her first, wildly successful novel. It is close to where her sisters and her family live, it’s a familiar environment that she craves after her marriage has floundered and expectations are high for her follow-up book.
After having holidayed in France and on her sister’s suggestion, renting her house on Air Bnb for much a needed financial boost, the moment she comes back to her home is so well described. It’s her home, yet not her home, someone has been living there, but there is little trace of the family that booked it. And yet….there are subtle changes, tiny things that would be overlooked by many but not Elle.
Trying to write under pressure from a deadline and her agent, Elle is hoping to find inspiration strikes in her custom made writing room. However, her ex is still lingering in her mind, the much wanted reunion with her sister doesn’t go as planned and there is that pesky matter of her ‘number one fan’ who seems to follow everything she does on social media….not to mention unprocessed traumas that become more evident as the book progresses, in flashback chapters alternating the Elle of now and the Elle of her 20’s.
Is there someone in the house with her or is she becoming increasingly unhinged by the sudden mounting pressures from various factors in her life that she can no longer ignore? Is it as her sister says ‘All in her mind’?
What I loved about this book is that you have to work to get to like Elle. She is not immediately likeable, in my humble opinion, she grows on you over the course of the book and you want her to find some measure of peace.
Without giving any spoilers away – my absolute bête noire-is scenes that resonate very strongly without being forced on you. For example, a book club meeting where Elle is being feted as a local celebrity, or supermarket shopping in the dead of night because you are too scared to go home. It’s the little details that are so effortlessly portrayed that shows Lucy Clarke as an observer of the minutiae of life without belabouring the point.
The house that Elle has bought has massive significance , it is a 5 bedroom mansion that she is rattling around in, alone, and becomes a metaphorical mausoleum to the life she had, the life she has and the one she should have had. Past, present and future collide as Elle begins to realise that she cannot ignore her past and faces up to the realities of her character, what she has done and what she needs to do. She is on an actual and literal cliff edge for the entire book.
Many thanks to HarperCollins, Lucy Clarke and Netgalley for letting me read this in return for an honest review, I immediately looked for her back catalogue, downloaded ‘Last Seen’ and dove on in.
Currently available as an e-book, hardcover coming on September 6th and paperback from January 2019 Links to buy below !