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.]

Skin Deep by Liz Nugent | Compelling psychological drama

The title may be Skin Deep but there is nothing superficial about the characters in Liz Nugent’s third novel. 

The story opens with Cordelia Russel in a room where she has just murdered somebody and is wondering when rigor mortis will set in.

Born on a remote Irish island, Cordelia has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck has run out. And we find out why as her story slowly unfolds over the coming chapters.

Like Liz Nugent’s earlier novels — Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait  Skin Deep is dark. Cordelia is not a likeable character but slowly you come to understand at least some of the reasons why she behaves as she does. And those reasons go back to her early life on the island, particularly her relationship with her father and the expectations he encouraged during her childhood — expectations grounded in myth and dark storytelling.

There are a lot layers to explore in this novel — island life with its hardship, secrets and tight community, family jealousies, betrayal, myth, charity, home, retribution, the elements of fire and water, earth and the mercurial nature of Cordelia herself.

This is carefully crafted novel where the threads are well interwoven and expertly tied together in a satisfying conclusion.