Thursday, 1 June 2017

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell #BlogTour @Sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #MyLifeInBooks

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers... 
Bo Luxton has it all - a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers' retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops... Or does it?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is published on 1 August 2017 in paperback by Orenda Books.  I posted my teaser review of Exquisite a while ago here on Random Things and I'm delighted to re-visit it here today as part of the Blog Tour, I also have a fabulous My Life in Books piece from the author herself.

My Life In Books ~ Sarah Stovell

I owned all of these – the slim hardbacks of each fairy tale, beautifully written amazingly illustrated. They were short enough for a child of around seven to manage on her own, and I used to read them to myself every night, apart from The Musicians of Breman because the cover was so frightening, I had to take it off the shelf and hide it somewhere I couldn’t see it. I loved these books and now, I understand how crucial fairytales are. They contain everything a good story needs and the best ones really do cast a spell over the youngest readers. Everyone should have a good grounding in fairytales. As an adult, I have been frustrated about the state of the traditional fairytale. The Ladybird editions are no longer as well written and the illustrations are cartoonish, and even the bigger collections seem to lack the lyricism of the vintage Ladybird ones. Happily, I recently managed to get hold of the whole collection of vintage Ladybird books on ebay for my children. They feel less passionately about them than I do, the ungrateful wretches.

I read this a lot when I was about 8. There was something about The Magic Finger that I was aware I didn’t quite understand, but which seeped into me anyway, and it’s to do with the sense of unthinking entitlement that humans believe they have to pillage the rest of the earth. I think this made a huge impression on me, though I would never have been able to articulate it at that age. It’s still with me – the desire to be able to point my finger at every bastard and turn them into a ducks.

Anne of Green Gables
I find it hard to put into words the impact this book had on me. I was ten the first time I read it and I read the whole series and cried when I reached the end, then went back and read them all again, over and over. Like Anne, I was a very lonely child with a huge imagination, and there was something in these books that just reached out to me and let me get lost in them. These were pivotal books in my development as a writer.

Wuthering Heights
I did this for A’Level English Literature. I was seventeen and completely swept away by it. The Yorkshire moors, the passion, the madness… I just loved it. I think I was a bit in love with Heathcliff, which was unfortunate, as it meant I spent many years after that looking for his image in other men. The raging madmen.

Another one I did for A’Level, another brooding protagonist I fell in love with. But how can anyone watch Hamlet and not be in love with him?

Sarah Stovell ~ June 2017 

Where to start? Where on earth?  Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is a book that took me by surprise, I was absolutely consumed by the story whilst reading it. The plot and the characters still lurk in my head. The voices of both Alice and Bo regularly pop into my mind, I ask myself questions about them, about their story. It’s a book that burrows its way into your soul, and clings on.

Two women, who at first introduction seem so very far apart. Bo, aged forty, is a successful novelist. She lives peacefully by the Lakes in Cumbria with her husband and her two small daughters. She’s confident, successful, intelligent and talented.

Alice, mid-twenties and drifting seems to be the complete opposite. Her boyfriend Jake is slovenly, lazy, keen on daytime parties and drink and drugs. She works, cash-in-hand at a language school. Her life seems to have no direction.

The common theme in Bo and Alice’s lives is writing, and whilst Bo has already carved out a great writing career, Alice can only dream of doing the same. Things may change when Alice is awarded a bursary to attend a Creative Writing course led by Bo.

Bo and Alice meet and immediately, the tension is ratcheted up by this very very talented writer and it soon becomes clear that these two women have another thing in common. They are both very damaged people, with pasts that haunt them and shape them and impact on their present.

What follows is a highly addictive, sophisticated and very twisted psychological thriller. The reader is exposed to the workings of the darkest of minds, and each page presents a question to the reader, although the answers are not always apparent.  The development of the intense and at times, very disturbing relationship that grows between Bo and Alice is so finely done, with some spectacular characterisation and surprising twists. The Lake District setting is beautifully portrayed and the contrast between that and Alice’s home town of Brighton is vividly done.

Throughout the story, the reader knows that something serious will happen, that is clear from the address of one of the narratives, however, it is not until almost the very end that we can be sure of the reliability of the narrators ...... or can we?

Exquisite deserves to be huge in 2017, it is quite extraordinary. At times uncomfortable, often shocking, but always compelling.  Sarah Stovell is hugely talented, Exquisite is an absolute triumph. 

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Follow her on Twitter @Sarahlovescrime

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This is one I'm going to have to read. Thanks for the spotlight!