Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Review of "Behind Her Eyes" by Sarah Pinborough
Louise Barnsley, a thirtyish, divorced single mother, has a part-time job as a secretary in a North London psychiatric clinic. When Louise's new boss, Dr. David Martin - and his wife Adele - show up on Monday morning to be shown around, Louise is shocked. David is the handsome man she snuggled and kissed in a bar last Saturday night!
During an uncomfortable tete-a-tete, Louise and David agree that the kiss was a mistake and their relationship has to be strictly professional. Things don't work out that way, though, and Louise and David are soon involved in a passionate affair.
To complicate matters, Louise and Adele (David's wife), bump into each other outside the office and become friends. The women sometimes meet for coffee or lunch, and Adele even pays for Louise's guest membership at her upscale gym. Adele asks Louise not to mention their friendship to David, and Louise agrees.
Louise is in a tough spot, sleeping with David and secretly hanging out with his wife. Louise knows this is a bad idea but she's falling for David and likes Adele - so she continues seeing them both. After a while Louise notices that Adele seems to be under David's thumb: she has to be available for his daily phone calls; she takes powerful medication that he prescribes; she isn't allowed to have friends; and she shows up with a bruised face. Clearly, something is wrong in the Martins' marriage.
The story alternates between Louise's and Adele's perspectives and - though Louise seems straightforward and truthful - Adele appears sketchy and devious. In flashbacks, we discover that Adele had sleep problems as a teen and was briefly institutionalized. We also learn that David and Adele moved to North London for a 'fresh start', and that Adele is trying to re-ignite their youthful love.
For her part, Louise is devoted to her young son and a bit depressed because her ex-husband is having a baby with his new girlfiriend. In an odd coincidence, Louise also has sleep problems, which Adele is helping her overcome.
As things play out it's clear that the 'love triangle' is only part of the story. There's a lot going on beneath the surface....but that's spoiler territory. I'll just say there are some big surprises.
None of the main characters in the story is very sympathetic: David is an adulterer; Louise is having sex with a married man; and Adele is manipulative. This makes it hard to root for anybody. or to care very much about what happens to them.
'Behind Her Eyes' received many laudatory reviews, but for me it's just okay. The story moves extremely slowly, with Louise and Adele's every thought and action described in great detail. I became impatient and wanted things to move along more quickly. In my opinion, this is a story that would work better as a movie than a book. (I'm already picking out the cast in my mind. LOL)
Nevertheless, the book is a unique psychological thriller, and many fans of the genre would probably enjoy it.
Rating: 3 stars