|Please enjoy this picture of a pretty door as I only have the book in E-Book format!|
What do you do when you’re young, naive and swept so far away by your emotions that you end up married to the wrong man? You don’t stay with him, trying to convince yourself day after day that he will change back into the person you thought he was. No – you kill him.
This was always going to be the end goal for a woman like Grace. Someone who was genuinely kind-hearted and was just unfortunate enough to become trapped in a very wrong situation. It’s all very sweet and romantic when she meets Jack in the park. Probably the only man she’s ever met to be so warm towards her sister Millie who has down syndrome and to be so enthusiastic about taking them out for lunch and then wooing her with his gentlemanly charm. I understand it. I even understand her marrying him, as it does happen. Some people make impulsive decisions when they’re falling in love and sometimes it works out, but most of the time it doesn’t. And yes, that is my inner pessimist coming out as I can remember being besotted with someone that I would have done anything for. And where am I now? Single and stronger. So sorry to break it to you Grace, but you made a very bad decision to marry him so soon.
The plot of this novel is not at all complicated. In fact, it’s more than predictable. Girl meets gorgeous boy. Gorgeous boy turns out to be even more gorgeous but also more dangerous than ever. Girl submits to his duress for so long that she is finally forced to kill him. There was never a doubt in my mind that Grace would kill Jack. She had to. There was really no other way for the story to end, especially as she was narrating it and flicking it between the past and the present so confidently. A sudden break in her narration, only for Jack to take over and tell us that he had been writing the whole thing after killing her certainly would have made for a more complex and interesting story. But then again, this one was well written and despite being predictable, made for a good read regardless.
I understood the kind of character that Jack was meant to be, but I didn’t always understand B A Paris’s portrayal of him. Some of his actions just seemed pointless and far-fetched, even if they were the actions of someone evil who thrived on the idea of inciting fear and control. Buying a dog for their house and then leaving it to starve and die was one thing I really didn’t understand. Denying Grace basic things like a hairbrush and a decently sized towel to dry herself with was something else I didn’t understand. Particularly as I’m sure I can recall Jack saying that he married Grace because he was getting older and didn’t want to be alone. His behaviour wasn’t always maintained anyway. Towards the end when he started drinking whisky with Grace, I felt that this just seemed completely out of character for Jack and only employed narratively because there would have been no other way for Grace to escape otherwise. But considering that he thrived on keeping her imprisoned with no social life, it seemed an odd thing to then grant her her wish of having someone to socialise with of an evening. Even if it was only him.
I must say that Grace’s overwhelming need to tell us everything instead of just painting the scene of how things happened grated on me furiously. Especially as the book started so well, reeling us in and encouraging us to ask questions. Only to find out all the answers just a few chapters later and then find that the rest of the story is basically just the painfully detailed accounts of Grace’s attempts to escape and Jack constantly repeating the same things over and over again – which was that he would really enjoy hurting both Grace and Millie when the latter finally came to stay with them. There was all this threat of physical violence, yet I don’t think he ever hurt her once. If anything, it was Grace who physically lashed out at him on multiple occasions. All he did was starve her and wind her up, so he really wasn’t as villainous as he was supposed to be I feel.
Things only really clicked in the novel’s final chapter, which I almost didn’t make it to as I was getting so bored. But it was definitely worth the wait, as the final chapter left me with chills down my spine and feeling just a little bit scared. I finished it just after midnight, reading it on my phone in the darkness of my room. Grace had finally managed to successfully plot Jack’s downfall using the sleeping pills that Millie had saved up for her and a watchful neighbour Esther, who we meet at their party in the first chapter, had been piecing things together ever since. So carefully in fact, that she was able to help Grace take those final few steps in the end to seal the deal.
You see, Esther had cleverly remembered Jack telling her that Millie’s room would be red when she finally came to stay with him and Grace, as that was her favourite colour. This small mistake eventually revealed everything to smart little Esther. When Jack died in the basement, which was where this red room was, Esther saw all the horrifying portraits that he had forced Grace to paint of his domestic violence victims. And it had then clicked that Jack had been planning to imprison Millie there in the basement all along, instead of in the yellow bedroom upstairs that he had been pretending to everyone he was planning to. It’s chilling really when you take it all in. Particularly the final lines when Grace asks Esther in a whisper why she is doing all of this to help her.