The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

Rummaging around on why To Be Read (TBR) shelf last week, I came across The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton. Published around a year ago, the blurb describes this as a “pacy, gossip-fuelled story of one mother’s mistake, and the huge ripple effects on a community weighted with secrets”.

To give you an idea of what it’s about, the story focuses on a group of young mothers, and in particular on three women — Liza, Sarah and Ella — with WhatsApp group conversations helping to move the plot along.

Social media shows up in a lot of novels these days. In this one, I thought Rebecca Thornton used it very effectively to support the story without getting in the way of the flow. I also thought that the real-life conversations between characters were very well done—tightly written and believable.

Getting back to the story, when Liza’s little boy, Jack, has a bad fall at the local health club, the accident results in several different types of fallout:- 

  • For Jack himself, who falls out of the playground after climbing on a post and ends up in hospital with severe neck injuries
  • For Liza who wasn’t watching her son because she was feeding her daughter
  • For Sarah who didn’t check on Jack because she was distracted when she spotted Ella
  • For Ella who found herself caught up in the fallout for reasons that only become clear as the novel progresses.

There’s also fallout for Liza and Sarah’s relationship which starts to break down when Sarah’s guilt becomes obsessive and causes her to make a series of bad decisions. 

For me, Sarah is the most interesting of the three main female characters. I found that my attitude towards her shifted several times as the story unfolded — from finding her sympathetic to feeling frustrated with her and then back again.

If I was to find a fault with The Fallout, it would be that the secrets that emerge are not as dramatic as I expected them to be — but then, isn’t that often the way with gossip? 

Short chapters and a fast pace helped make this an exciting read. I enjoyed it.

[Disclosure: I received an advance proof copy]

Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent – unexpected twists and a satisfying ending

Our Little Cruelties is a character-driven novel about three brothers — Will, Brian and Luke Drumm — and the rivalries of their family life.

The story begins at a funeral. One of the brothers is dead but we don’t find out which one until the end of the novel.

Timelines move back and forth from the brothers’ childhood through into their adult lives. The story unfolds slowly, switching between individual points of view and revealing key events that help us understand how each brother became the man he is.

Different but alike, each life story is both influenced by and impacts the brothers’ wider family, work and social relationships. Individual actions have consequences in this novel, often lasting and terrible.

As in her earlier novels, Unravelling Oliver and Skin Deep, Liz Nugent manages to make us feel sympathy for unlikeable characters in a tightly-woven story with unexpected twists, nicely wrapped up in a satisfying ending.

[Disclosure: Review copy from the publisher, Penguin received via Netgalley.]

Strangers by C.L. Taylor – a thriller with loneliness at its heart

The three main characters in CL Taylor’s Strangers have led entirely separate lives up to the moment when fate brings them together at a death scene in a Bristol shopping centre.

Ursula, a courier and occasional shoplifter, is a lonely, but sympathetic character, who has lost the lover of her life Nathan. Despite her light-fingered ways, which see her evicted by her flatmates, there is a kindness in Ursula which comes out strongly at certain points in Strangers and makes her more likeable than she perhaps appears at first sight. She’s impulsive, with a tendency to land herself in sticky situations that sometimes force her to make bad decisions. One such situation is, involves her decision to move in with a creepy landlord who actually gave me nightmares at one point when reading this novel

Gareth, a security guard in the shopping centre and a carer for his elderly mother also plays a key role Strangers, part of the significance of which only emerges towards the end of the novel.

Meanwhile the third character, Alice, recently back on the dating scene, is being stalked in a threatening way that seems to have something to do with her new boyfriend. But who is the stalker and why are they targeting Alice?

What I liked about Strangers is that the characters are individually strong and interesting. I also liked the short chapters, which make Strangers easy to pick up and put down again without losing the thread of the story.

Previously on this blog, I reviewed another CL Taylor novel, The Accident – a psychological thriller about an emotionally unstable mother determined to find out why her daughter deliberately stepped in front of a bus. You can find that review here.

Strangers by CL Taylor is published by Avon, a division of Harper Collins.

[Disclosure: I received an advance proof copy].