This is the first book by B P Walter that I've read, and I'm looking forward to more. A gripping psychological thriller, it weaves the stories of Julianne and Holly into a roller-coaster read that hooked me from the start. Here's a taster:
2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.
1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.
A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?
Two women, two timelines, one awful truth...
First, let's deal with the characters. None of them are particularly likable, in my opinion. Julianne has a tendency to bury her head in the proverbial sand when it comes to her husband. James, Ernest, Peter and Ally are self-absorbed and cruel. Holly is unbelievably naive and at times an inverted snob.
None of this matters; I'm not the kind of reader who needs to like characters in a novel, but they do need to interest me. And they did. When would the scales fall from Julianne's eyes? Why can't Holly see how warped her friends are? Is James really that easily led by Ernest?
Other downsides to the characters? I wish the author had developed Diane, Julianne's mother, more. B P Walter does a great job of portraying this narcissistic woman and how she undermines her daughter, so i assumed this was part of a character arc/subplot that would develop as the novel progressed. I was wrong - Diane doesn't appear again. A shame, as her acerbic brand of commentary used as the novel reaches its climax would have, in my opinion, added to the tension. As it stands, she appears to contribute nothing to the plot.
As for Holly, she vacillates between uptight virginity and sexual abandon in a way that fails to convince. One moment she's a prudish bookworm, the next she's spying on her friends' sex lives. That scene where she hides in a wardrobe? Really?
I also rolled my eyes at the way the wealthy characters are portrayed as selfish and uncaring individuals who use their social status to procure their twisted desires with no regard for others. It's stereotypical thinking - 'All rich people are bastards!' - and says more, in my view, about the holders of such opinions than wealthy people themselves.
Other loose ends and anomalies
Let's move on and examine the plot. Some parts are hard to believe - would James really have saved those documents in the family Dropbox account, even by accident? However tired he might be, its hard to imagine him making such a catastrophic error. Also, the way his character arc ends is weak and far too convenient, letting him off the hook for his crimes.
The ending almost calls for a sequel and doesn't answer the question of whether the other members of James's cabbal get their comeuppance. From what we're told, it could go either way, but we never get to find out. The reader is left hanging, which makes for a less than satisfactory finale.
So would I recommend 'A Version of the Truth'?
You might be thinking that I disliked this novel. I didn't. 'A Version of the Truth' drew me in from the first chapter. It's soon obvious that Julianne's husband harbours a dark side; the mystery lies in the fine details and how James manages to conceal his depravities for so long. I enjoyed the way the stories of Julianne and Holly are interwoven along with the different timelines - that worked well. A warning - this book is not for the faint of heart. It examines rape, people-trafficking, abuses of power, dysfunctional families and class envy. Some readers may find the sexual scenes uncomfortable reading. The novel is dark, twisty and intriguing, despite its flaws. You can check it out via this link: A Version of the Truth.
Have you read 'A Version of the Truth'?
Did you like it, love it, hate it, find it a bit 'meh'? Leave a comment and let me know!