Apple Tree Yard
By Louise Doughty
*SPOILERS* There are spoilers in the following review.
I was really looking forward to reading this book, it has lots of recommendations including Ian Rankin who is one of my favourite authors, so I made sure that I saved it for when I had no distractions and the time to savour and enjoy. Unfortunately the book was a total let down.
The narrator, Yvonne Carmichael, a 52yrs old scientist at the peak of her career embarks on an affair, I use the term very loosely as it consists of meeting in coffee shops then having sex in back alleys. The entire affair on both sides just beggars belief. He tells her absolutely nothing; he takes her nowhere; he doesn’t even offer to get them a room. And yet we are expected to believe that this 52yrs old, highly intelligent woman, believes this man to be in love with her. I think possibly the worst part of the book, is where, with no encouragement from Mark (the lover), she decides that he is a spy!! There cannot be one person who read that and thought it likely.
The woman is unlikeable, unbelievable, delusional and has no credibility whatsoever. I presume that was the author’s intent, to show how people’s emotions overtake them to to the detriment of everything else. But you must have some basis in reality and this story did not. I lost the will to live.
Mark’s perspective was just as bad, here is a serial adulterer who, we are asked to believe, is prepared to commit the worst crime known to man for a woman who he has sex with on occasion in a back alley.
On a positive note the rape scene is well depicted and quite harrowing. It is a pity it is enmeshed in the rest of this story. The trial scenes are interesting and well researched. But the plot just goes from bad to worse. The explanation for Mark’s actions is no more than cod-psychology and the verdict is laughable. How a man who takes and uses a change of clothes to a crime scene can get his sentence reduced from premeditated murder to manslaughter, I have no idea. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.
The ‘twist’, as some people have referred to it, on the last page is no twist at all. It is totally predictable and the only thing left to happen.
I don’t particularly like giving poor reviews, but this book has barely anything to recommend it. While the prose is fine and the court scenes well described, the plot is ludicrous in my opinion. But there are, at this moment in time, 262 Amazon reviews that say I am wrong. They all give the book 5 stars, meaning that they believe it is one of the best books ever written. They can’t all be wrong: can they?