Publisher: Louise Walters Books
Publication Date: 26th September 2019
I was initially drawn to this book due to its beautiful cover! the whole 1960’s glamour vibe had me sucked in. I also read the blurb and felt like it could be a book I would zip through, and zip through it I absolutely did! It is only a relatively short book anyway but it has a momentum to it that means you cannot stop reading.
Our protagonist is Emma Bowden and what a protagonist she is! She lives a privileged life with her doctor husband, Jonathan. They have a very nice apartment in New York and a beautiful weekend home in The Hamptons, Picasso paintings, designer clothes, upscale dinner parties and staff to assist are just part and parcel of everyday life for Emma. From the outside she appears to have it all, however she has led a very troubled life stemming from a difficult childhood and she has lots of dark feelings buried inside that she has much trouble processing and dealing with.
Emma was adopted as a child and separated from her siblings, she then went on to be involved in a tragic incident on a cliff walk with her class at school in which her friend died. This event has overshadowed Emma’s life in a huge way and has left her in therapy trying to deal with her guilt. Just how involved was she on that fateful day and how instrumental was she in the little girls demise. Emma herself can barely remember.
These lapses in memory are in part down to her habit of popping various pills, be they painkillers, tranquilizers or sleeping tablets and her love of sleeping her troubles away, cocooned safely away from normal adult life. There is a sense of ennui surrounding Emma most of the time, that is unless something is happening in her life to pull her reluctantly out of her cosseted stupor.
When she and Jonathan are at the house in the Hamptons one weekend, she has an altercation on the beach with some children. When one of these children then goes on to drown, Emma begins to question just how much involvement she had in the incident…
You see, Emma is a very unreliable narrator. Her pill popping propensity all washed down with alcohol, means she questions her own thoughts and very often doubts her own actions. If she can’t be sure where she was or what she said, then we as readers certainly can’t trust what she is telling us! I love that!
Emma moves on from the incident at the beach and goes on to write a successful book, followed by a not so successful book which sends her crashing back into her depression again. This drowned child and her friend back in school who died in the cliff fall have a tendancy to pop up in her mind when she least expects it. She also suffers from very troubling dreams in which a voice calls out to her…
The timeline of the narrative flits back and forth, sometimes within a year or two, others a decade or so. We learn snippets of Emma’s childhood, the early years in her relationship with Jonathan and her relationships with her siblings, one of which makes an appearance towards the end of the book.
There are times in this book where there is an almost dreamlike quality yet the writing is so tight and sharp. I think this is due to the fact that Emma views the world behind this medicated veil, drifting in and out of consciousness. Sometimes being fully present and in control of her own life, (usually at times of great success in her career), and other times allowing herself to sink back down into the murky depths of medicated sleep.
This is a real surprising gem of a novel with one of the most fascinating female protagonists I’ve read so far this year. In Emma, Diane Cambridge has written a not entirely likeable but always compelling woman.
It’s a short, sharp, brilliantly written little book that I think deserves lots of praise. It has a great pace and momentum and I found that at certain points I felt a little uncomfortable but couldn’t look away. I always love books that can elicit this feeling.
I throughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend you get yourself a copy.
Thank you as always to the publisher Louise Walters for my review copy of the book.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx