Pure excitement. That's what I felt when I first ordered The Book Club by C. J. Cooper. But was I disappointed?
Short answer: most definitely not. This novel is both gripping and intense matched with the calm but unsettling atmosphere of a small village. Everyone knows everyone's business... or so they believe. Everyone is hiding a secret. One of them is murder.
The use of the small village setting fits perfectly with this novel. You generally think that nothing could go wrong in a small village, but quite often these are the perfect settings for thrillers. The author has created a sense of claustrophobia, a feeling you can understand even better if you've lived in a small village. You feel like there's no escape, as if you're shut off from the rest of the world. I suppose that's how Alice, the antagonist, wanted Lucy, the protagonist, to feel.
Being in a small village also made it easier for Alice to get up in everyone's business and find out all their secrets. She sets up the Book Club to expose their lies, focusing on classic literature that represented a different person every week. Her main focus is to get revenge on Lucy, whilst destroying her small friendship group in the process.
The novel centres around the themes of revenge and consequences. Alice believes that every action has a consequence. She tells Lucy: “Everything you do has consequences… for you and for other people.” Was Lucy truly responsible for what happened to Alice? Can it just be a coincidence? Or does every little action you take, end up causing a chain reaction? Should we be thinking, analysing every move we make? Whilst I think we should be aware of the decisions we make and how it will affect others, it would be hell on earth to sit and analyse every single move you made, it would drive a person insane.
Do I feel any sympathy for Alice? I don’t know. She’s clearly had a hard life that has led her to be hell-bent on revenge. Straight away she creeped me out, you could tell there was something off about her. I couldn’t trust her at all, she made me very tense. I’m still not sure if I feel any sympathy for her.
As for the rest of the characters, I do sympathise with them. Lucy is my favourite but I'm not exactly sure why, I'm just drawn to her, I guess. Technically she has done a bad thing - arguably they all have, apart from Maggie who I feel like was just put in an impossible situation. I'm sure some would argue me on that point as they may find what she did was horrible. But I feel nothing but sympathy for her, it's not an easy position to be put in.
I'm also drawn to Tom who is a very loveable character, I guess it can also be argued that he didn't do a bad thing. Technically, it can be seen as wrong but, again, I sympathise with him. You can with all the characters in some way, I suppose even Alice, whilst still judging them for their actions.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The theme of revenge is strong and I was left feeling very tense, in the best possible way. It's full of fantastic, three-dimensional characters and I would recommend that everyone reads it.
This definitely deserves 5/5 stars.
Until the next time,