Author: Sarah Stovell
Publisher: Orenda Books
Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Exquisite is one of those novels that take you completely by surprise. Although I’d seen lots of fantastic reviews, I still wasn’t prepared for just how absorbing it would be. This won’t be too long a review because I don’t want to give anything away!
The characters themselves are so interesting; some you really identify with and some who seem great and then slowly reveal their true selves as the novel goes on. There’s trickery, heartbreak and forbidden love by the bucket, and it’s all written in such a fantastic way, so that you can completely imagine being in some of the characters’ shoes.
The story is told from both Alice and Bo’s perspectives, and the way the story is structured – with the start told from both, the early mid-section mainly from Alice, the later mid-section from Bo and then the last section of the book from both of their point of views – means you feel what it must be like to be both the characters, because the gaps in your knowledge due to those characters not knowing exactly what’s happening in the other person’s world leaves you confused and a little on edge. You never know what is ‘real’ in Bo and Alice’s relationship and what isn’t.
Exquisite is so skilfully written, I galloped through it and couldn’t put it down. I was completely, utterly absorbed and was dying to know what was really going on. I did guess a main part of the story quite early but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. Relationships, passion, love, and writing are all prevalent themes. It’s interesting that the language is very descriptive at times and really evokes what the characters are experiencing – very powerfully – but also addresses such everyday tasks and incidences, like Alice’s layabout boyfriend, Bo’s mundane marriage, sorting out where to live, jobs… it’s all everyday life, but this juxtaposed with the fantastic language really drew me in. A great novel I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
Many thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.