BLURB: A girl. A boy. His mother. And the lie she’ll wish she’d never told.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a gripping and chilling debut psychological thriller, based on the fall-out following an unforgiveable lie. It looks at the potentially charged relationship between girlfriend, boyfriend and his mother, which most women can identify with, and locates it in an extreme but believable setting.
Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn’t had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura’s life.
Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she’s not all that she seems.
When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.
I absolutely rattled through this domestic noir thriller, which, initially, keeps you guessing as to which of the women in Daniel’s life are being unreasonable. Isn’t Cherry just ambitious, and what’s wrong with that nowadays? Isn’t Laura just a bit, well, clingy, considering her son’s in his mid-20s? These two mega-alpha women are caught in a battle of wills over Daniel, and very quickly they can’t see eye to eye at all – and so poor Daniel, in order to keep his new girlfriend happy, also decides he is unable to see his mother, as the things she’s saying about Cherry are unconscionable. His mother is too clingy. And perhaps she is, simply because she’s stuck with Howard, who’s a good father, in what for years is a loveless marriage. She even knows who her husband’s long-term lover is, but is frightened to broach the subject, fearing she will be left alone if he’s forced to choose, rattling around a huge Kensington mansion (with an underground swimming pool!) Unlike Cherry, she knows money doesn’t automatically buy you happiness. For Cherry, having money means another step further away from her upbringing.
However, the more we learn about Cherry, the more we swing towards agreeing with Laura’s analysis. Then there’s a shocking accident, a lie is told, and – inevitably – everything, eventually, unravels from there.
I’m not going to reveal any more, as this is when the novel really gets gripping, and things get really nasty…I’ve read the odd blogger write that they aren’t fond of nasty characters, but, I’m sorry, I much prefer a nasty character, particularly a female one – they’re invariably far more interesting and have more depth to them than your average nice person. (This doesn’t make me a psychopath does it?!) And – important point for us bookworms – they give great book.
The two women are very much the main characters, which, I felt, left Daniel slightly as a third wheel, although the book wouldn’t really work otherwise. He’s a bit of a sap, to be honest – not the brightest; God knows how he ever got into Cambridge to study medicine!
Cherry aspires to a better life as she grew up in a poor area of Croydon, and seems completely oblivious – and ungrateful – that her mother worked every hour she could in a supermarket to keep her clothed and fed. (Her mother, Wendy, was, unfortunately, a bit of a working-class cliché – watching trashy TV or DVDs, while eating chocolates, and, naturally, not nearly as chic and glamorous and well-groomed as middle-class TV production company owner, Laura.)
From the point of the accident, if I was gulping down chunks of the book previously, afterwards I was glued to it. It was absolutely unputdownable, and most definitely one of the best domestic-noir thrillers I’ll read this year. If you’ve still a weakness for the genre – and aren’t absolutely scunnered with it yet – then I cannot recommend this highly enough, as a fresh take on a family imploding. I think the last book that kept me up so late/early was The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (whose new novel is high on my TBR pile…OK, mountain…!)
I simply cannot wait to see what Michelle Frances comes up with next!
At time of writing, this book is only 98p on Kindle – mega-bargain!
Don’t miss it!
I would like to thank NetGalley and Pan Books for giving me an ARC of this novel. This unbiased review is my thanks.