Thursday, 6 April 2017

Book Review: DON'T CLOSE YOUR EYES by Holly Seddon

Don't Close Your Eyes

Author: Holly Seddon
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
March 2016
Expected publication: 4 July 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged, estranged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

My thoughts:

In 1989, twins Sarah and Robin are the much-loved daughters of Angela and Jack Marshall, living in an ordinary household in Essex, hanging out with their friends and going to school. On weekends, the Marshalls spend time with their neighbours, Hilary and Derek Granger, who have a son the same age as the twins. There are family barbeques and game nights and weekends away, and everyone gets on famously. Life is good.

Fast forward to 2017, and Robin is a virtual prisoner in her own home, whilst Sarah has been kicked out of her house and denied access her toddler Violet. What has happened in the years between to derail the two sisters’ lives so completely? What terrible family secret has severed their strong childhood bond and is still standing between them after more than 20 years?

As in her debut novel Try Not to Breathe, Holly Seddon is not afraid to explore the dark and sinister side of family life in her new book Don’t Close Your Eyes. Whilst the beginning seems innocuous enough, don’t be fooled – this is an author who knows how to skilfully sow seeds of unease which soon bloom into dread as her increasingly dysfunctional characters start on their path of self-destruction. Life is good – until it isn’t. One wrong step has blown the fuse, and no one will ever be the same again.

With fundamentally flawed characters, who not only destroy their own lives through the poor choices they make, but also the lives of those close to them, the sisters’ life story reads like a tragic tale of how childhood trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics can shape our lives. I was stunned and shocked about some of the terrible decisions the parents in Seddon’s latest book make on a regular basis, and the fallout was terribly sad in every way. Constantly vacillating between disbelief, anger and sadness, this was an emotionally exhausting read for me, and one that hovered in sepias and greys in my mind as I watched it unfold with cold dread clutching at my heart.

Family dynamics lie very much at the centre of this character driven novel, which to me read more like a family drama than a psychological suspense story, although there are several surprises in store for the reader at the very end of the book. Whilst I did not love the story as much as Try Not to Breathe, which was one of my favourite reads for 2016, I thoroughly enjoyed Seddon’s writing style and her brutal honesty with which she exposes her characters’ darkest secrets. Perhaps I just never bonded with Robin or Sarah as I did with the alcoholic Alex, which made me feel more like a spectator than a participant in the story. Nonetheless, Don’t Close Your Eyes is a skilfully woven tale, which will appeal to lovers of domestic noir and those who appreciate the extra tension unreliable narrators manage to instill into the storyline.

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

You may also like (by the same author):

Try Not to Breathe

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