Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.
When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.
But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them . . .
Curtis’ debut novel is a sophisticated psychological thriller that focuses on Vicky Seagrave, a mother of three and wife to Tom. The Seagraves live on the outskirts of London and seem to have the perfect life. When the book begins, Vicky is on maternity leave from her job as a teacher and is toying with the idea of buying a new house.
But it isn’t long before an impulsive decision made by Vicky causes her to lie to several people close to her and the police, which starts a string of events that leads her to question her close relationships. Her actions also lead us to question her morality and her judgement as a mother. Following her decision, Vicky confides in her best friends Amber, who she met at a pregnancy group several years before the start of the novel. It’s clear that they have a close bond but this relationship is brought into question as the novel progresses.
The main narrative is set in London in 2010 but another story is also told. This story, set in 1992, focuses on a young girl named Katya whose mother has just died. The implications of this earlier story on Vicky’s story remain a mystery for the reader for much of the book but the pieces slowly come together in shocking detail.
As well as alternating between two timeframes and two narratives, the book also alternates between narrative voices with Vicky’s perspective told in the first person and all others told in the third-person. Although jarring at first, the technique is very effective in allowing the reader to empathise with Vicky more than any of the other characters even if it is her judgement and morals that we question. An intimate understanding of her reasoning and her thinking forces us to ask ourselves whether we might do the same or something similar in her situation and that is ultimately what is so fascinating and terrifying about the book. The setting, characters, and situations are frighteningly realistic and relatable, particularly for mothers.
Motherhood is one of the central themes in the book. Curtis examines contemporary motherhood through the characters of Vicky and Amber and Vicky’s relationship with her own mother Maggie. All three have very different approaches to motherhood and different ideas of what motherhood means to them and the book expertly explores each one. It also looks at motherhood, particularly abusive motherhood, from the perspective of the child through the character of Katya. In this case, Katya must try to come to terms with the loss of her own mother and searches for a replacement mother figure.
Ultimately, the book leads us to question the decisions we make every day in our hectic lives, particularly when stressed, and who we can trust. Trust and different types of friendship and companionship are also questioned in the book as Vicky examines hers following the events that happen early in the book. As her life starts to spiral out of control, she discovers who her true friends are and who has been lying to her. It also takes her back to an event in her past that she had tried to forget. The implications of mistakes made both today and in the past are explored throughout the book.
The book successfully explores the secrets hidden behind every door, in every family, and in every past. The book is an impressive page turner with plenty of twists and shocking moments. Curtis’ book plays on our contemporary fascination with the darker side of domestic life and fits perfectly into the subgenre of novels and films that show us what really goes on behind closed doors in seemingly picture-perfect families.
Curtis’ debut novel is incredibly written and I can’t recommend it highly enough.