Monday, 16 November 2015

Book Review of What Jennifer Knows by Wendy Janes

Well, I did say I would be doing more on the blog now that I'm back from mat leave, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than by reviewing Wendy Janes' debut novel, What Jennifer Knows. For those who like to know the genre in advance, we're talking contemporary fiction.

First, here's the blurb:
A vital member of her Surrey community, Jennifer Jacobs is dedicated to her job as a dance therapist, helping children with special needs to express themselves through movement. Wife of a successful though reclusive sculptor, Gerald, she is known for having a deep sense of empathy, making her a trusted confidante. So when two very different friends, Freya and Abi, both share information with her that at first seems to be an awkward coincidence, she doesn’t tell them. But as the weeks roll by, the link revealed between the two women begins to escalate into a full-blown moral dilemma – and also brings to the surface a painful memory Jennifer believed she had long since forgotten. What is the right thing to do? Should she speak out or is the truth better left unsaid?

And here's what I thought: I rated it 4.5 stars

I'd already read and enjoyed a couple of short stories by this author, and was looking forward to her first full-length novel. I wasn't disappointed. From perhaps about a third of the way in, you can see the 'car crash' waiting to happen, as you are meant to, however the journey to get to that point is what keeps us hooked, and wanting to read more. I found myself being annoyed by the household tasks which got in the way of my being able to read more, always a good sign! I liked Jennifer, and to a slightly lesser extent her husband, who I thought was a bit up himself. But I did think Jennifer would have been an interesting person to meet, and a helpful soul. Abi, her friend, would have been interesting to meet too, but I liked her a bit less. She was very self-absorbed, but was meant to be. Only later in the book do we find out much more about Abi, her emotions and the reasons for her behaviour. Freya, Jennifer's new friend, is the antithesis of Abi, and you could imagine people walking all over her, as she was so nice. The dilemma facing Jennifer when she unearths a common link between her two friends, old and new, is an age-old, and tricky one. I'd like to say I would have done the opposite of what Jennifer did, but who can tell. This is the kind of novel which you could happily debate with your friends about whether the right choice had been made. I particularly loved the ending, and found it a little unexpected. The gall and the audacity of the male lead in all of this knew no bounds and I would certainly give him a piece of my mind if I ever met him. The writing style is easy to read, yet the prose is beautiful. A very well-crafted book for a debut novel, with the various strands being seamlessly woven together, and the denouement coming as a bit of a shock. I think we have a new contemporary fiction author to watch. I look forward to the next book

You can buy the book on Amazon

Tune in on Wednesday when you can find out all about Wendy in my pull-no-punches interview.

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