Lisa Jewell – Watching You

lisa-jewell-watching-you
Lisa Jewell – Watching You

After years abroad, Joey returns to England with her husband Alfie. In lack of alternatives, they move in with her brother Jack and his pregnant wife. The neighbourhood is full of strange people, first of all this woman who seems to have mental issues and is convinced that people are following and watching her. Then Tom Fitzwilliam’s family, he a charming teacher who immediately starts to flirt with Joey, his wife, a somehow excessive runner who only seems to live for her husband and their teenage son who closely observes everything that is going on in their street. It is all but a peaceful suburb of Bristol, it is soon to become a crime scene – but who killed whom and for which reason?

Lisa Jewell opens her sixteenth novel actually with the crime scene. You know from the start that somebody has been murdered, but the victim’s identity isn’t given, only one clue to lead you in a certain direction and to keep your attention fixed on one character throughout the novel. I really liked that because the author so cleverly puts you on a track that – even if you are careful and know how crime novels sometimes play with you – you eagerly follow into the trap.

It is not easy to talk about the novel without revealing too much and spoiling the fun for other readers. I especially appreciated the wrong leads, the assumptions you have about what might have happened, who the murderer could be and the reasons for his deed, that all turn out to be completely wrong. The style of writing and the artfully dropped hints keep you read on excited to come to the end and see the full picture. Carefully orchestrated, a brilliant psychological crime novel that could hardly be surpassed.

Anna Quindlen – Alternate Side

anna-quidlen-alternate-side
Anna Quindlen – Alternate Side

They have the life many people dream of: Nora and Charlie Nolan live in New York city in a quiet dead-end street, their twins Rachel and Oliver have become charming and successful students and both Nora and Charlie are good at their respective jobs. In their street, they have made friends with the neighbours during annual barbecues and the like and from the outside, there is not much you could wish for. However, underneath the surface, the idyllic street has its fights, like very neighbourhood, there is the controlling neighbour whom nobody ever openly contradicts, there are rumours and the nannies also exchange the secrets and share them with their employers. Nora and Charlie have always worked well as a couple, but after almost 25 years, there is a kind of exhaustion, they do not share the same ideas of life anymore and after a major incident in their street which makes them take different sides, they too, have to confront the question if they want to and can go on like this.

Anna Quindlen has an eye for the detail. Even though her story is set in big New York City, the plot is centred around a small community that could be found almost everywhere. It is the clash between the look from the outside and the real picture that makes the novel most striking, the almost invisible fractures, the divergent views which become only detectable when something big happens.

“Alternate Sides” is the perfect summer read, on the one hand, it is a light novel, not too complicated or philosophical, but taken from life and straight-forward in the development of the plot. On the other hand, you have a sympathetic protagonist whom you can easily identify with. You follow Nora and she is immediately likeable, even though she’s got quite an exclusive job, she is like to woman from next door, ignorant of classes and anxious to raise her kids to become good people. Neither does she immediately explode when she feels provoked by her husband, nor does she take in everything without disagreeing.

Since everybody knows how well-off neighbourhoods work, you can smirk at how the inhabitants of this street react, much too predictable, but that’s just how humans work. At times, they are hilarious – Charlie’s joy when he gets a parking spot in the street! – at times, they remind you of the people from you real life that you despise. Even though there are many serious issues underneath the surface of the novel, it is a joyful and entertaining read.