11 January 2015

Review: The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

The Liar's Chair
Rebecca Whitney
Mantle, 2015
Hardback, 224 pages

I was sent this book by Amazon as part of their Vine programme.

The chair belonged to teenage Rachel. When things got too bad, she'd hide in the airing cupboard in the corner of her bedroom, padlock the door form the inside, and sit on her chair.

Years later, as an adult, Rachel has her fears under control. She's married to David. They have worked hard, their TV production company is successful, and they have all they could want. Yet all of this is fragile.

Driving home one morning, Rachel does something terrible, something she tries to cover up. The stress of this, however, undermines her hard won self assurance and she begins to fall apart... or at least, that's how David might put it.

This book is in many ways a painful one to read. We're firmly with Rachel all the way, despite what she's done, and it's harrowing to see her begin to lose herself to guilt, fear and bullying. Whitney includes just enough backstory to help the reader understand how Rachel came to be as she is - it's less about specific events than about the atmosphere, the situation that surrounded her childhood.

The reader - any decent reader anyway - will want Rachel to turn around and defy her tormentors (whether in the 1970s flashbacks or the "now" parts of the story) - but that would be untrue to the reality of the mess she's in, I think.

Not that Rachel is a mere passive victim. She knows what's going on, and does what she can to protect herself, but she's under attack not only from her own past and actions but from her husband, whose behaviour in the present is pretty monstrous.

This was the only point where I felt that Whitney lost her touch slightly - we understand why Rachel is like she is, but David appears as something of a caricature of an abusive husband, with very little insight given about his past. And his rapid development from tyrannical husband and TV producer to local crime boss was a bit hard to swallow.

Setting that aside, this is an extremely readable and tension- laced psychological study with a real and developing sense of menace. Not a happy book, but a thrilling one.

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