Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Book Review: DARE TO REMEMBER by Susanna Beard

Dare to Remember

Title: Dare to Remember
Author: Susanna Beard
Publisher: 1 February 2017
Read: December 2016
Expected publication: Legend Press

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her badly injured and her roommate dead, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley. However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night? As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realizes that there’s another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can’t escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

My thoughts:

After a horrific attack in which Lisa’s best friend died and she herself was badly injured, Lisa suffers from severe PTSD and retrograde amnesia relating to the event. In an effort to get her life back on track, she moves away from the city to a sleepy little country village, working from home and staying away from human contact as much as she can. Forming a fragile friendship with her elderly neighbour, she finds solace in long dog walks with her neighbour’s dog, an escape from sleepless nights where terrible flashbacks still plague her. But life has a way of invading, and Lisa finds that she cannot stay a hermit forever. To finally lay her demons to rest, she must face up the past, and explore what really happened that fateful night.

Beard has done her research, and with her main protagonist Lisa, offers the reader insight into the effects of PTSD on everyday life. Since we don’t know what really happened to Lisa on the night of her attack, in which her best friend Ali died, Lisa’s hesitant journey back into the past with the help of her therapist also becomes the reader’s way of finding out the truth in little baby steps. This was my main qualm with Dare the Remember – it moves along at a very slow pace, and nothing much happens as the characters each go through the motions of everyday life: sleeping, eating, shopping, walking the dog. And since Lisa works from home, the main cast of the book revolves around her dog, her elderly neighbour and her dog-walking friend from next door. Yawn! I thought my own life was a bit monotonous! Whilst I found the author’s insights into grief and trauma interesting and insightful, they weren’t quite enough for me to keep me riveted. I found myself waiting for something shocking to happen, a surprise twist, a threat to Lisa’s safety – anything! But this never eventuated, and even the side stories relating to Lisa’s new friends added little excitement and were – sorry to say this – a bit boring. I never quite got the sense of Lisa’s anguish, her desperation, her innate need to find closure. In fact, I never felt very close to Lisa at all, and some of the dialogue she has with her therapist and new friends was a bit too close to textbook “how to deal with trauma and grief”.

Unfortunately for me, the novel was lacking in the elements of mystery and suspense that justify the label of “psychological thriller”. I think that long dog walks in nature whilst recovering from trauma can work, if there is an underlying threat of danger, a dark element appearing in the storyline– like for the character of Jenna Gray in Clare Mackintosh’s novel “I Let You Go”, where mysterious writing in the sand brings Jenna’s traumatic past into the present and hooks the reader immediately with the implied danger to Jenna and the secrecy that shrouds her past.  Of course there we also have that great plot twist that made the novel memorable, which was also lacking in Dare to Remember. If you are looking for a slow, contemplative read about a women trying to come to terms with trauma and loss, than you may really enjoy this book. I however was looking for a psychological thriller, finding that the “thrills” never quite eventuated.  

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

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