Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
This is the first time I read one of Jane Fallon’s novels, and I’ve realised she has quite a following, and this is not the first novel she writes about revenge.
In this case, we have an actress, Amy, (not a big star, but an actress who has struggled from bit-part to bit-part until she managed to get a regular role in an American crime series. Well, or so she thought) who goes back home to surprise her childhood-friend Mel for her birthday, and she is the one to get a nasty surprise when she discovers her fiancé, Jack, is having an affair and somebody has taken her place. It does not take her long to discover that her supposed best-friend has stabbed her in the back, and rather than confronting both, her fiancé and her friend, she decides to try and get a new life and show them that she can make it on her own, before letting them know she is aware of their betrayal. This creates many awkward and difficult situations and a complex net of lies and deceit that will keep readers turning the pages.
The book is narrated in the first person, mostly from Amy’s point of view (who alternates what is happening in the present with the story of her friendship with Mel), although towards the last third of the novel we also have a few scenes when we follow Mel’s point of view, and that gives us some insight into her plans (more than her feelings, that we don’t know in detail, other than her wish to give Amy’s her comeuppance) and a different perspective on Amy’s relationships. (Sometimes both points of view might alternate in a single chapter, although it is easy to tell them apart).
Amy is a likeable character, although her reaction to the betrayal and her insistence in carrying on with her revenge plans for months and months and dragging others into it (including her friend Kat and Kat’s husband, Greg, two great characters, and Simon, a new love interest she meets when she moves back to London) make her less so at times, and she appears immature and too dependent on Mel’s friendship. Although both, Mel’s current behaviour, and what we learn about the history of their friendship, shows Mel in a very negative light (she is full of herself, self-aggrandizing, self-centred, vain, shows clear narcissistic personality traits, and is jealous of Amy’s good fortune, never giving her any credit and ruining her other friendships), sometimes, when Amy fights fire with fire, she goes so far that we have to wonder if they are not as bad as each other. Eventually, though, Amy has some scruples and there are lines she won’t cross, and it is easy to see that her friendship with Mel has made her doubt herself and lose her confidence. When a friend dismisses everything you do and only uses you to make herself feel better, she is not a friend, as Amy discovers.
There are a number of other characters (university friends, relatives, love interests, agents, etc.) that create an interesting and varied background, and London also provides a realistic setting for the story, from the difficulties of finding an affordable apartment, to the landscape, shops, food, and transportation. I particularly enjoyed the insights into the acting career (that the author has good knowledge of), that go beyond the glamor and big successes we are used to in films and books. Amy is a working actress who has to fight tooth and nail for tiny parts (woman in park, woman in pub), who is no longer young, and who has dedicated plenty of time to the career because she loves it, not because she thinks she will become famous and make it big (most of the time she can hardly make a living out of it). The fact that Mel, who also wanted to become an actress, and who was the more attractive and popular of the two when they were younger, never made it is a particularly nice touch.
The novel is enjoyable, full of lies, deceit, and twisted individuals, but it is a pretty light fare. There is some suspense, but it is not difficult to guess some of the events; there are some pretty funny moments, and some cringe-inducing ones too. Although the book exemplifies a toxic friendship, it is not a treatise in psychology and it is not a guidebook or a serious treatment of the subject (there are true memoirs and books written by experts if you are interested in the topic), but a light revenge novel, whose final message is a hopeful and positive one. Although the character goes through much heartache during the book, she learns from the experience, and she discovers who she really is and who her true friends are. (And, to be honest, she seems to be much better off without Jack, as there does not seem to be much love lost or chemistry between them).
Fallon’s style is fluid and the novel is easy to read and moves at good pace, although I don’t think the main characters will stay with me for long. A solid chick-lit book, set up in the world of acting, and one I’d recommend to those of you who enjoy revenge stories (and might have fantasised about your own).