Archive for September, 2016


This book – along with every other psychological thriller written in the last couple of years, or so it seems – has drawn numerous comparisons with Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, Gone Girl. Full disclosure here – I loved Gone Girl while I was reading it, but after I had finished and thought about it, it all seemed a bit daft, and the more I thought about it, the more I decided it wasn’t as good as I had initially thought – so what I would make of Disclaimer, I wasn’t sure.

The story revolves around Catherine, a high powered, happily married woman, who finds a novel in her and her husband Robert’s new house – only when she starts reading it, she realises that the story is based on an incident from her own life some 15 years earlier, and one which she had hoped to put behind her forever.

The chapters alternate between those concentrating on Catherine – told in the third person – and the story of a lonely old man widower named Stephen Brigstocke. The connection between these two characters is revealed about a third of the way through, but I had already guessed at it beforehand.

With Catherine desperate to find out how the secret from her past has come to light, and Stephen bent on seeking revenge for what he believes are injustices that he has suffered, the two stories eventually converge and secrets are revealed. There is a huge twist towards the end, which I had not guessed – but I did guess that a twist was on the way.

This book is certainly a page turner – the writing flows easily and it’s an undemanding read. However, what let it down for me was the sheer implausibility of the characters’ actions – yes, characters plural. I can’t say too much without giving spoilers, which I am reluctant to do, but almost every character seemed to do something which didn’t make sense, and which was clearly only included to move the story along. Also, none of the characters were particularly likeable, although that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall, this is what I call a ‘cheap chocolate’ book – it’s fine while you’re consuming it, but you know it’s not that good and when it’s over, you probably won’t feel satisfied. I’m giving it 3 out of 5 for it’s page turning pace, but I don’t think I’d be in a hurry to seek out more by this author.

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This film opens with Leanne (Saoirse Ronan), who was kidnapped at the age of 4 and has lived with her benevolent but disturbed abductor Ben (Jason Isaacs) for 17 years, being returned to her parents, having escaped/been discovered at Ben’s home (it is never made clear how she gets away). Her mother Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and father Glen (David Warshofsky) are delighted to have her home, but their joy soon turns to heartbreak as they realise that they don’t know their daughter – renamed Leia by Ben – at all, and not only does she not remember them, but she also identifies more with Ben, who has been her sole companion for most of her life. As the family struggle to find a way to tread this unfamiliar ground, events take a sinister turn in Marcy’s desperation to make a connection with her daughter.

I enjoyed this film a lot, despite the disturbing subject. The acting – particularly from Ronan, Nixon and Isaacs (albeit Jason Isaacs took a small role, with his character’s life with Leia being told in flashback and just one scene in the present day) was outstanding, and really made me invest in the characters.

It is a slow moving story, certainly not a film for fans of action movies, but I found that that suited the mood perfectly. The ambiguous ending also fitted the rest of the film, and I found myself thinking about this film and the characters for several days after viewing it.


Year of release: 2015

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Writer: Nikole Beckwith

Main stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky


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Allison Johnson (usually referred to here as ‘the girl’) as desperately in need of escape from her current life. Pregnant, stuck in an abusive relationship with boyfriend Jimmy and heavily dependent on alcohol, she decides to move away from Las Vegas to Reno to make a fresh start. As is always the way though, she carries her demons with her.

This book charts Allison’s life in Reno, from a detached, third-person point of view. It follows her as she decides what to do with her baby, finds work as a waitress, strikes up tentative friendships, and unfortunately, continues to drink heavily and end up in dangerous situations with unpleasant men. In her darkest hours, she imagines conversations with her favourite film star Paul Newman, and these conversations help her through.

As I always do when I finish any book, I looked for reviews of this online, and the vast majority I read were hugely positive. I really wanted to like this book – and there are lots of positives about it. The short abrupt chapters and eloquent writing meant that I flew through chunks of it really quickly and I thought it captured the late night smoky atmosphere of Reno pretty well (although I’ve never actually been there, ha!)….but the aforementioned detachment, and the very spare style of writing meant that I never engaged with any of the characters, because I never felt that they were fully fleshed out. And it is just so depressing and exhausting to read!! Just when I thought things were going to turn around for Allison, she screws it up again.

Although it’s a quick read, it doesn’t exactly flow like a novel, and often felt more like a series of vignettes from Allison’s life with a connecting theme running through them. I love Paul Newman, but I also didn’t see the point of her imaginary conversations with him.

So all in all, perhaps this was not the book for me. I can see why some people enjoyed it, but by the end of it, my main feeling was relief that it was finished.


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I am aware that Sophie Hannah is a prolific and popular writer of psychological thrillers, and I have three or four of her books on my shelf. However, Little Face is the first one I’ve actually picked up to read, and I still have mixed feelings about it.

The story gets going immediately when new mother Alice Fancourt goes out for the afternoon for the first time since the birth of her two week old daughter Florence. When she gets home, she is convinced that the baby in Florence’s cot is a stranger, and that someone must have come in and exchanged Florence for another baby – it is this baby that Alice comes to call ‘Little Face’.

Alice’s husband David is initially confused and horrified by his wife’s assertion that their baby has been adducted – he is certain that the baby in their house is indeed their daughter. As Alicen’s conviction grows and the police become involved, David becomes more hostile and increasingly abusive towards Alice.

Completing the Fancourt family is Vivienne, David’s mother, in whose house David and Alice live. It is clear from very early on in the narrative that David is completely dominated by his mother, and that Alice appears to be too. David’s first wife Laura was murdered years earlier, and as a result, Felix – his son from that marriage – also lives with them, though he does not feature heavily in this book.

The chapters alternate between Alice’s point of view, and a third person point of view describing the police investigation. The two main police officers are Simon Waterhouse, a diligent man who has trouble connecting with others; and his boss Charlie Zailer, who has a troubled relationship with Simon.

I am in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I thought the premise was interesting and while I was able to guess part of the ending, I genuinely had no idea about what had happened to Florence. Was Alice losing her mind as David’s abuse was designed to make it appear? Or was she correct that her daughter had been taken and replaced with another unknown baby? And here lies the problem for me – while the ending certainly took me by surprise, it was also a major let-down. Without giving away any details, I will only say that when the truth behind the this is revealed, it makes a lot of what has been said beforehand make a lot less sense. And the reasoning behind what happened is so convoluted as to seem ridiculous. However, the journey to get to the disappointing ending was really enjoyable – it was one of those books that when I put it down, I was eager to get back to it and read more. I do think Hannah made a good job of ratcheting up the suspense and keeping the reader guessing.

I have read other reviews of this book, and it seems that it is generally regarded as inferior to this author’s subsequent work. I’m glad about that because I would like to try more by Sophie Hannah, but I would have been put off doing so by the disappointing ending of this story, had the other reviews not convinced me that her later work is much better.

So would I recommend it? Not sure. I’d recommending giving Sophie Hannah a try I think, but I’m not sure if I would suggest this specific one to start with.

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