Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling novels to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant and a sinister relationship develops….
OR DOES IT?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Hi! Welcome to my stint on the Orenda Books blog tour for Exquisite, the debut novel from Sarah Stovell.
I am going to start off by saying that this is not the kind of book that I would have picked up and bought, had I not been pointed towards it. Generally speaking, I will avoid books which have romance and affairs at the heart of their story – they’re just not my cup of tea. Exquisite, however, this is very much a mind-bending, psychological thriller; the affair between the two writers a means by which to channel the control, deceit and manipulation which define this tale.
Exquisite is a dual-narrative book, told alternately by the two protagonists Bo Luxton and Alice Dark. Bo and Alice lead two very different lives – Bo, a well-established writer, lives with her husband and daughters in a picturesque cottage in the Lake District; while Alice spends her time between dead-end jobs and her unemployed boyfriend in a grotty flat in Brighton. The two cross paths at a writers’ retreat hosted by Bo; and an instant connection becomes the turning point at which the story really begins.
The book opens with an anonymous post from one of our two main characters, writing from her current incarceration at Her Majesty’s Prison for Women, Yorkshire. Storytelling shifts between Bo and Alice throughout the novel; with a hefty chunk in the middle of the book depicting the same series of events from both points of view. These sections are long and intricate, allowing us to get into their headspace and understand their thought processes, feelings and plans. The final chapters speed in an anarchic and dizzying back-and-forth between the characters as the culmination of the story draws closer and we finally learn the identity of the Women’s Prison author.
Stovell’s writing is spectacular, and the atmosphere she moulds around Bo and Alice is sinister, claustrophobic, and manipulative of both the reader and the characters. I found myself re-assessing the story so far at various points throughout the book, the development of their intense relationship never completely clear. Both have pain in their past; with the maternal issues that have shaped their personalities and their growth a creating a bond between them.
Dark and twisting to the very last sentence; if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, this is absolutely one to add to your reading list.
Exquisite was published by Orenda Books on 15th June – thanks to them for my review copy!