Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. Today I’m posting my review of Fiona Neill’s compelling novel, ‘The Betrayals’. I read this book whilst I was on holiday and really enjoyed it! So, keep reading to discover my thoughts…
None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.
Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable.
But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick.
And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets.
Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel.
Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer.
And Nick must confront his own version of events.
There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Explores the theme of mental illness in great detail, specifically OCD and anxiety. Explores the theme of substance abuse, specifically alcoholism. Includes scenes of a sexual nature, and explores the theme of infidelity. Contains medial jargon and a matter-of-fact approach to human anatomy.
‘The Betrayals’ (2017) is Fiona Neill’s fifth novel, following on from ‘Friends, Lovers And Other Indiscretions’ (2010), ‘What The Nanny Saw’ (2011), ‘The Secret Life Of A Slummy Mummy’ (2014) and ‘The Good Girl’ (2015). Neill worked as a foreign correspondent in Central America, before returning to the UK and working as a journalist. She grew up in rural Norfolk and now lives in London.
The book has received positive reviews, from the likes of Stylist: “A rollicking read that should not be picked up at bedtime, or you’ll be done for in terms of a good night’s sleep” and Grazia: “Thought-provoking and stands out from the crowd.” Fellow authors have also praised the book, such as Gillian McAllister: “A vivid and insightful portrayal of a family in crisis” and Lisa Jewell: “No one writes about modern family with more truth and authenticity as Fiona Neill”.
‘The Betrayals’ tells the story of a family that is torn apart by the events that occur on a summer holiday in Norfolk. Years later, Rosie, Nick, Daisy and Max are all struggling with their own inner demons. But who’s version of events is truthful, and who is lying about what happened that fateful summer?
The narrative is told from the first-person perspectives of Daisy, Max, Rosie and Nick. This provides the reader with an in-depth insight to the characters complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. The narrative begins in the present tense, but then delves back into the past – eight years earlier when the family holiday to Norfolk occurred. The story is fairly easy to follow, but still very effective.
Daisy is my favourite character in the novel. She’s complex and mysterious, and definitely has a few skeletons lurking in her closet. She suffers with OCD, which is portrayed really excellently throughout the novel. The only person who knows the severity of her illness is brother Max; other than Max, she really struggles to let people in, and holds other people at arms length. Daisy is extremely vulnerable and I really felt a great deal of sympathy towards her. However, she’s very strong and determined, and her bravery is particularly inspiring. She’s a very realistic, three-dimensional character, and I really enjoyed reading the events from her perspective.
Daisy’s brother Max is another complicated character. He’s emotionally scarred by the events of the summer holiday in Norfolk years earlier, and struggles to maintain a healthy relationship of his own in the present day. He attempts to look after his sister and help her through her illness, but he is also afraid of her becoming too reliant on him again. Max is a medical student who thinks about things very logically and methodically, and he struggles to deal with his emotions, which at time overwhelm him. Max is the ideal brother figure, and it was interesting to discover more about him.
Mother Rosie is a medical researcher and doctor who specialises in breast cancer patients. She’s extremely skilled and dedicated to her job, and she finds her work very rewarding. She tries really hard to be a great mother and always puts others before herself. But she’s lonely and vulnerable, and doesn’t always make the right decisions. She has plenty of flaws, and she too is hiding things from her family. Father Nick is impulsive and selfish, and puts his needs before anyone elses. He can’t help himself from having an affair with Rosie’s best friend Lisa, and before he knows it, he’s ruined everything. But in the present day, Nick feels he is being punished for his actions that summer years before, and he starts to question everything.
Other characters in the novel include: Lisa (Rosie’s previous best friend), Ava (Daisy’s previous best friend), Rex (Daisy’s previous love interest), Kit (Daisy’s present boyfriend), Connie (Max’s current love interest), Gregorio (leader of the support group), and various other friends and colleagues. There is a decent-sized cast of characters in the novel, and all bring something fresh and exciting to the story.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel explores the theme of mental illness in great detail. This novel does not shy away from exploring the realities of the illness OCD, and the debilitating effects it can have on a person’s life. Various obsessions, compulsions and even self-harm is touched upon in the book. Another major theme is substance abuse, particularly alcoholism. Again, this novel does not shy away from exploring the devastating effects that alcoholism can have on the individual, and the people around them. Scenes of a sexual nature are included, and the theme of infidelity is explored. Finally, a lot of medical jargon is included, and there is a matter-of-fact approach taken to discussing the human body and anatomy. All of these issues are explored with appropriate sensitivity, but if you feel that any may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors onwards, all of the characters’ situations begin to get worse. Daisy struggles with her illness, Max has trouble with his relationships, Rosie makes some foolish mistakes, and Nick feels he is being punished. Will they ever be able to overcome their pasts? And what really happened that summer in Norfolk?
So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s a dramatic reveal in which the truth about that summer in Norfolk finally comes to light. We finally discover who has been telling the truth, and who has been lying. The ending ties everything together brilliantly, and everything suddenly makes sense.The novel ends on an ambiguous note, which I really appreciated. I’d love to discover what happens to the characters next – a sequel would be fantastic!
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy family dramas, particularly if you enjoy reading books about secrets and lies. Whilst the genre isn’t my usual cup of tea, I can really appreciate how well-written this book is. The portrayal of OCD is very eye-opening, and the characters are all very unique. For me, it’s a little bit too slow and there’s not enough action, but I did really enjoy reading this as a change of scenery from the usual psychological thrillers!
Happy reading 🙂