Sunday, 13 March 2016

Beneath the Surface - Heidi Perks

An interesting debut by a talented author.

I received this book as part of the goodreads giveaways in return for an honest review.

Heidi Perks' Beneath the Surface is all about families and secrets.Well, so what? Many books on a similar theme there already. But what piqued my interest was the shocking premise and the curiosity to see how the plot panned out.

Seventeen-year-old Abigail comes back from school to find that her entire family has vanished. Years later, when she is about to start her family, she is still traumatised by the past. Compelled to find out what and why, Abi embarks on a journey that leads to shocking discoveries for her that makes up the plot.

What works:
  • The structure. The story moves through the many narratives running through it. We get to hear what happened from all the major characters. An interesting way of taking the reader in.
  • The style. The characters reveal a bit about themselves and in turn shed light on their situation. I found it interesting to read on how they attempt to control the events whereas eventually the events take over.
  • The writing is good too. I particularly loved Amy's description of her mother's loveless marriage to her stepfather.It combined emotions and an element of mystery quite succinctly.
What doesn't:
  • The first few pages are good. Soon it is obvious that it is an unhappy family and the emotions and the sadness dominate the plot. However, I felt it weighing down the story and slowing down the plot. 
  • About 50 pages later, I felt as though I was wading through the descriptive paragraphs. It was boring and the only thing that kept me going was the thought that it gets better. After a couple of hundred pages, the pace finally picked up and the narratives merged into the plot, turning it into a rewarding read.
  • The premise is shocking and bizarre. The explanation of why the mother left the girl behind, had to be justified. Of course Perks takes care of that, but it left me wondering about the plausibility. Perhaps I am being too harsh but after such great characters, a great structure, the suspense element, I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't unflinchingly call it a great read. However, technically the novel works well and as a reader, it made me stick to the end - that says something about this debut author.
  • Also a bit of editing in the first half would have made it more taut. I could see she was prepping the ground for  the second half. The pace really zooms ahead in the second half and I found myself ignoring the bedside clock to get to the end.
Overall, it is a well written book and a good debut. Perks knows  how to hook the reader and keep them dangling till the end - job well done.


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