Six Years by Harlan Coben- review

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I am a big fan of thrillers and wanted to try something by Harlan Coben as I’ve heard he writes some entertaining, gripping novels.

Six Years is told from the perspective of Jake, a ‘college’ (or ‘university’ to us Brits) professor who is pining the love of his life Natalie. He watched her marry another man 6 years ago, despite feeling certain that she loved him as much as he did her, and he has never got over her. When he reads in the newspaper about her husband’s death he goes to pay his respects, secretly hoping that, even 6 years on, Natalie will still be interested- but finds that the Todd Sanderson who he watched marry Natalie had a different wife and family before his death. There is no trace of Natalie- in fact no proof she ever existed- and even the retreat where Jake and Natalie first met, in the village of Kraftboro, doesn’t seem to have ever existed. Weird!

The novel is fast paced and never dull, revealing more and more of the truth as it goes and I really enjoyed reading it. One thing I did notice, however, was that it wasn’t the most well-written book I’ve ever read. It seemed in many ways to be written like a generic American thriller novel and the writing style could certainly blur into another similar book. There are also various points in the story that seem a little far-fetched; without giving too much away, he seems able to recover from some pretty severe beatings without any lasting injuries and can beat up a whole host of seemingly tougher characters. I wonder how much training and working out he gets done as a college professor- but then think that this is a stereotypical view and actually just because he isn’t in the armed forces or similar doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be able to fight! The book also mentions that he is a big guy too which no doubt gives him some advantage over others. Regardless of this he really seems to recover from injuries that no one should be able to leg it away with!

Despite this little niggles, I still really enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel as Jake finds more and more out regarding Natalie and her disappearance. There are quite a few different characters involved and elements that relate to various points in time, but it wasn’t hard to follow as a reader and I didn’t find it too taxing to read at all.

Six Years really kept me hooked and I couldn’t guess what had happened to Natalie until Coben, bit by bit, revealed it to the reader. The ending was a little predictable but I liked it and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an easy to read page-turner!

Rating: 3/5

The Ice Cream Girls book cover

The Ice Cream Girls – read this book!

The Ice Cream Girls book coverI’ve finally got around to reading The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson, having been recommended it by numerous friends and family. I have to say, this novel is so great – it really drew me in and I couldn’t put it down!

The story is told from 2 different perspectives; Poppy and Serena’s, both 38 years old and still dealing with the aftermath of an awful event that happened over 20 years ago. Both women were involved in an ‘incident’ as girls which led to them standing trial for murder and branded in the media as ‘The Ice Cream Girls’. Poppy was given a life sentence in prison, but is insistent throughout that she is innocent whilst Serena is acquitted and goes on to have a relatively normal life and her own family – and she also maintains her innocence. With both telling the reader that they did not commit the murder, who is the liar?

Flashbacks reveal, bit by bit, what happened that fateful night and contrasts this with their current lives as adults. Meeting Marcus (first Serena and then Poppy) sets both of their innocent teenage lives spinning out of control and leads to devastating consequences. I don’t want to give too much away about the story, as part of its brilliance is the masterful suspense Dorothy Koomson creates and the sense of intense curiosity I felt, as the reader, when I was dying to know what had actually happened that night.

Touching upon many themes including child-abuse, the British judicial system and what people do for love, The Ice Cream Girls is so well written that I could barely put it down, although many scenes are disturbing and left my feeling very uneasy – but then, the experiences that both girls had to go through were very disturbing in itself and the novel reflects this so well. It felt like I was really drawn into the character’s lives and felt for both of the main protagonists as well as their families, although some were sadly less sympathetic than you would hope family would be. Reading about how their families react to their situations is another aspect of the story that is really interesting.

Poppy’s character is very interesting as she really shows her years in prison, both through the language she uses and the way she behaves. Often she comes across as far more immature than Serena, showing the way prison has affected her social development. Serena, in contrast, has a husband and children who are her world, and she is determined not to let them find out about her chequered past.

Apparently there has also been an ITV drama made too, but I have yet to see it – I’m not sure it could possibly measure up to the book but I will have to give it a watch and find out!

I read The Ice Cream Girls without knowing too much detail about the storyline, and felt that added to the suspense even more, so I won’t give any more details in this review but would just thoroughly recommend this as an absorbing, thought-provoking novel. There were a few parts where I felt that even the savage UK media would not have behaved this way towards two fifteen-year-olds, but it wasn’t a massive issue. I was still blown away by this book and I’d love to hear your opinions too!

My rating: 4.5/5