Starting anew

Derwentwater. From Clare Chase's website.
In the time honoured tradition of book bloggers, I must make an admission. I know the author of You think you know me, Clare Chase; she's a friend. I was very excited when she told me that her first novel was about to be published last year; but it's taken me a while to get round to reading it.

Most of the reason for this was a purely personal one. The novel opens with the heroine, Anna, meeting a mystery man at an exhibition. The man who appears to be interested in her is also soon exposed as a liar, and Anna has got to decide whether to trust her instincts, or go with her friends' advice. A few years ago I went out with a guy who was a Billy Liar character. It's funny, but the play always makes me laugh; but going out with someone like that is anything but a laughing matter. When so much of their life is a fantasy, especially when you don't realise this to begin with, you start to wonder what's real. If so much of their life is a fake, what, if anything, is true about their relationship with you? It's hard to deal with, it's destructive, it makes you doubt yourself and everything around you. And so, the start of Clare's book struck a nerve, and I found it impossible to get past that. This, I should add was purely coincidental, as Clare had no idea about my own history in this area.

Things must have improved, because nearly a year on, I finally felt ready to tackle You think you know me. It probably helped that I had recently read a BBC interview with my ex, and was rather pleased to see that his fantasy life was still alive and well, and this time he had convinced a BBC journalist. It at least made me feel a little less stupid. Anyway, I'm very glad that I finally felt able to read You think you know me, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Clare takes the tried and tested format of the "woman in danger" novel and brings it into the twenty-first century.

This style of novel was wildly popular in the 1950s and '60s, with some of its best known exponents being Mary Stewart and M.M. Kaye. Post-women's lib, the format struggled to survive. I always thought this was rather a shame, because although the cliched view of this genre was that the woman was weak and needed a strong man to rescue her; in reality the genre was very different. The women were usually sassy, independent figures, often rather ahead of their time. Indeed it was usually this characteristic that led them into trouble in the first place. And if they always got their man, their man usually admired their character as much as any other "assets" they may have possessed; again a surprisingly contemporary attitude.

In You think you know me Anna Morris is struggling to combine her desire to be a freelance journalist with a very natural desire to earn enough money to eat. Following a review of an exhibition at a gallery run by an old university friend, Anna is offered a prestigious job with the firm, but why exactly has she been offered the post? And why is the handsome stranger she met at the exhibition so keen to learn more about the past of her university chum? Anna is forced to re-examine old loyalties, and her own judgement. But as Anna starts to look again at a shared history, life is about to become a lot more dangerous....

It's a compelling read, not least because the central themes of trust and judgement are something we all deal with every day; so it's easy to relate to the novel. Along with some serious themes, it's also a cracking crime story; with clever use of the everyday items of twenty-first century life. Perhaps the first crime story to have a central role for mobile phones?

I loved it, and would recommend it to anyone. I finished it in two sittings, compelled to keep on reading. It's fast-paced and clever, with a great sense of tension, and an enormous amount of fun to read.

I did say that the reason I had delayed reading it was partly personal; the other reason was that I was rather worried that I might read it and hate it. That would have been very awkward, as I'm a rotten liar, and would have found it impossible to say something complimentary if I'd loathed it. Thankfully I loved it. If you're an M.M. Kaye, Mary Stewart or Kate Atkinson fan You think you know me is well worth a read, and it's now out in paperback as well as on assorted e-book platforms, so what are you waiting for?

Comments

Clare Chase said…
Thanks so much, Margaret! I’m really delighted you enjoyed the book. So sorry it touched a nerve in the first place though. I do agree with you about the heroines of the original women in danger books. I read my first Mary Stewart titles in the 1980s, and even by contemporary standards in fiction then I found her heroines refreshingly self-sufficient. They had proper careers, travelled independently to far flung places etc. I’m incredibly proud to have You Think You Know Me recommended to her fans, and those of MM Kaye and Kate Atkinson, two other writers I absolutely love!
Margaret Jones said…
I think the fact that it touched a nerve is probably a compliment to the writing. Looking forward to Chase Two!

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