Monday, 30 January 2017

Apple Tree Yard - Louise Doughty

A story about relationships or rather the truth of it.

I have always maintained that the onscreen version of a book pales in comparison to its written version. Not in this case.

I heard about Apple Tree Yard when I watched a trailer on the BBC. It sounded great, looked intriguing and I was looking forward to it. After watching the first episode, I couldn't wait for the next one. I headed straight to my local library and got out a copy.

Funnily enough, the beginning was slow, the style was a bit strange and the pace very lethargic. I did not enjoy the first chapter at all. The only thing that kept me going was that I had watched the first episode and could tell therefore where the story was heading.


Yvonne Carmichael is a high flying geneticist. She is a middle aged woman with grown up children, enjoying all the hard work that she put in during her children's growing up years.

However, a chance encounter turns into a clandestine affair and then a compulsive habit. And then something happens that transports Yvonne at the Old Bailey court forcing her to defend herself and all that she lived for. Does manage to get off scott free or does she pay for the choices she made?

What works:
  • The language. There is something very compelling about the way she uses words to build a sequence of events and the narrative. 
  • The lead character is believable. It is easy to identify with her. Funny, how you would look at her as accomplished and successful whereas from the other side, it looks all tilted. I read a couple of reviews where the protagnist was berated for her choices. I can imagine that having an affair and expecting it to be something more may be delusional but then what happens to her is definitely not her fault. (I am trying hard not to give the story away!) The rationale behind the character's actions seem to be justified in the story and I could feel sympathetic for her by the end of it. The fact that the character's psyche was so accessible to the reader made me like the story and that is where the story gets another star for it. 
  • The sequence. It is not linear and keeps shifting back and forth until the past catches up with the present. The scene opens in a court and then backtracks to what happened to before then. It is very well done.
  • The suspense is well kept, making you turn that page, one more time.
  • I am a hardcore fan of courtroom dramas and love the dynamics of how words are twisted and prodded to suit a version. It is a gameplay that keeps me hooked and this book did complete justice to it.
  • I also loved the way the central character takes control of the narrative. How we women never take things at face value and tend to read much into it. Our tendency to analyse and overanalyse things can be often our unravelling. Doughty captures the psyche of Yvonne very well. 
  • Her justifications for her actions are a bit unbelievable. However, Doughty makes it believable. How a careless act can then spiral out of control and complicate things. 
What doesn't:
  • I don't think I would have read it, had not been for that compelling first episode. The very writing that bowled me over later, did not initially pull me into the story. 
  • The initial chapters take some patience. The story moves slowly and at times the writing is so subtle, devoid of any emotion.  I suppose that tone of clinical detachment  is what makes the pace hard but it does create an impact. 
I have been reading many reviews where people have either loved or hated it completely. My favourite is where it says-  "Relationships are about stories, not truth." - what we tell ourselves rather than perceiving it for what  it is. Very true. Loved it.  

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