Tuesday 14 April 2015

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

My name is Amber Fraser. I've just moved in at Number 40, Lime Park Road. You'll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.
This is a lie.
When Christy and Joe Davenport are handed the keys to Number 40 on picture-perfect Lime Park Road, Christy knows it should be a dream come true. How strange though that the house was on the market for such a low price. That the previous owners, the Frasers, had renovated the entire property yet moved out within a year. That none of the neighbours will talk to Christy.
As her curiosity begins to give way to obsession, Christy finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of the house's previous occupants - and the dark and shocking secret
that tore the street apart . . .

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is published in paperback and ebook by Penguin on 21 May 2015, and is Louise Candlish's eleventh novel.

Louise Candlish is an author that I've enjoyed reading for many years. I would have sworn that I'd read most of her books, but looking through my lists it seems that I've only read Since I Don't Have You, and Other People's Secrets.  I read them way before I started blogging, but I checked on Goodreads and I gave them both five stars. I've had a look on my to-be-read shelves, and there are a couple more of her novels lurking on there. I think it's time to bump them up the pile!

I was really happy to find that The Sudden Departure of the Frasers had been chosen as the book of the month by the Curtis Brown Book Group ~ the synopsis is wonderful, the book is big and meaty at 500 pages. I dived in and didn't come up for air for quite some time! I was also sent a copy of this one by Lovereading as part of the Lovereading Review Panel.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is a story of modern sacrifices, of the quest for the perfect home, and of how top-notch postcodes and gleaming kitchens can often disguise fractured people and broken relationships. Readers who are currently house-hunting should approach this novel with caution, it may make you change your mind about what is important to you!

There is a secret on Lime Park Road. Christy and Joe Davenport cannot believe that they have actually bought their 'forever' house. The small flat that they left seems miles away, this is their dream, and at such a bargain price too. However, there does seem to be something a little strange about the neighbours. Christy feels snubbed and agitated by the residents and their response to her. Maybe there is a reason why their beautiful home with it's copper bath imported from Mexico was so cheap. Why did they never meet the Frasers during the purchase of the house, and why is there no forwarding address for them?  It becomes very clear that everyone on the street adored Amber Fraser, it's pretty odd that none of her so-called friends know where she moved to.

Ahh, Amber Fraser. Probably one of the most beautiful and generous characters ever created, but also one of the most flawed, but absolutely compelling too. Amber tells her story in alternating chapters, alongside Christy.

This is a totally gripping read, the mystery of why the much-loved, wealthy and seemingly happy Frasers moved out of their beautiful home is central, and the clever way that Louise Candlish slowly reveals the story is spellbinding. Amber and Christy are developed extremely well, two women with nothing in common except for a house, and for me, that house took on a character all of its own. It is the show home of Lime Park Road, the house that everyone else aspires to, yet it has secrets within its walls that creates a darkness and almost sinister feeling for the reader.

Let's talk about Rob. In Christy's story he is a shambling, bearded, rude and surly man who everyone else on the street tries to avoid. He can be very offensive, he's often frightening, yet Christy's new neighbours are loathe to talk about him. In Amber's story, which take place only a few months previously, Rob is a popular, handsome man. The women of the street flirt with him, he's a much-welcomed guest at parties, he's a very popular guy. These contrasting views of the same character are central to the mystery of the Fraser's sudden departure, and when the reader finally finds out the truth it is shocking and cruel, and quite honestly, given the damaged characters involved, it's shouldn't be quite as much a shock as it is.

This is a subtle mystery, that is woven so incredibly well. Louise Candlish adds a hint of terror and darkness to her characters and the plot is engaging and unique.

I have little in common with the characters in The Sudden Departure of the Frasers, and it is a fascinating insight into the world of eye-watering mortgage payments, interior designers, and the battle to have the best. The story will almost make the reader consider just how much sacrifice should be made in the quest to find the perfect home.  I've never craved a large house (or a large mortgage), I'm pretty happy with my tiny semi-detached in an average rural market town. Getting a glimpse into this other world through this excellent story has been eye-opening and convinced me that it really doesn't matter where you live, you will always be who you are.

Huge thanks to the Curtis Brown Book Group and to Lovereading for sending my copy for review.

Louise Candlish studied English at University College, London, and worked as an editor and copywriter before writing fiction. She is the author of eleven novels, including the bestsellers SINCE I DON'T HAVE YOU and THE DAY YOU SAVED MY LIFE, all published in the UK by Sphere. 

Though her stories are about people with complicated lives and dark dilemmas, Louise tries to live her own life without drama, in South London, with her husband and daughter.

Read her blog at www.louisecandlish.co.uk or follow her day-to-day at www.twitter.com/louise_candlish.

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