Friday Book Whimsy: Watching You

Before sitting down to write this review, I tried to think how to describe Watching You, the newest novel from author Lisa Jewell. I finally decided it’s like eating some kind of complex meal in which the flavors combine to create something wonderful and oh-so-satisfying.

Tom Fitzwilliams is a handsome and charismatic educator who has traveled from school to school, “fixing” them. He is successful, the husband of a beautiful young wife and the father of a gifted — if voyeuristic — young son.

But there is something a bit off about Fitzwilliams, starting with an interaction 10 years earlier with a mother who attacked him, shouting that viva was her life, her everything. Who or what is viva?

The novel includes a variety of characters, including recently-married Joey, who moves to the neighborhood to live with her brother, but is immediately obsessed with their neighbor Tom. There is Tom’s son Freddie, who sits in the window and watches everything that goes on in the neighborhood, and knows there is something a bit off about his father. Nicola, Tom’s adoring wife; Bess and Jenna, two high school students, one of whom is infatuated with the teacher, the other of whom distrusts him from the get-go.

The author doles out the information piece by piece, little by little. The reader knows from the beginning that a murder has taken place. What we don’t learn until the end is just who was murdered, and why. And, of course, the name of the murderer.

I loved this novel from beginning to end. I read it in a day-and-a-half, and was satisfied with how the novel wrapped up.

Great read!

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Since We Fell

Author Dennis Lehane is a good story teller, particularly when it comes to character development. A number of his books have been made into movies – Shutter Island and Mystic River, both dark and interesting films. Since We Fell will likely be no exception. It seems to have been written to be made into a movie.

Like many of Lehane’s central characters, Since We Fell’s protagonist Rachel Childs stayed with me long after I finished the book. She wasn’t exactly likeable, but she felt real to me and though I couldn’t quite relate to the dark side of her personality, the fact that she was multifaceted instead of one-dimensional was a plus.

Childs’ never knew her father, and her mother wouldn’t tell her who it was. Her mother had long ago written a book about parenting that apparently earned her enough money to live on the rest of her life. And yet, she was probably one of the worst parents I’ve ever come across in a novel. She was selfish and manipulative and gave Rachel an entirely unstable childhood.

The book is written almost like two separate novels. Rachel (who is a television journalist) spends the first half of the book trying to find her father. She is determined to find the man who her mother refuses to identify despite Rachel’s never-ending pleas.

Rachel teeters on the edge of unstability, and after visiting Haiti in her role as a journalist, and witnessing poverty and violence like she’s never seen, she has an on-air breakdown, is subsequently fired, and spends the next few years not leaving her home. Her husband, himself a self-serving TV journalist, divorces her.

She eventually reconnects with a man who has made brief appearances throughout the book, and responds to his kindness. They marry.

Then the book gets complicated and Part 2 begins. I know. I know. Part 1 seems complicated enough!

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the second part of the book, but it becomes a thriller that deals with trust and greed and who one can love. Part 2 finally clarifies why the first line of the book is “On a Tuesday in May, in her thirty-fifth year, Rachel shot her husband dead.”

In looking at reviews, opinions range from I couldn’t put this book down to this convoluted story made for one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I fall somewhere in between, but lean to the can’t-put-the-book-down side.

It’s true that much of the story is convoluted and demands that the reader suspend reality, but I just kept coming back to the characters. They were just so danged interesting.

A review of this book is difficult to write without giving away the surprises, and the twists and turns are critical. So you’ll just have to read Since We Fell yourself and see what you think.

Here is a link to the book.