Friday, 25 November 2016

What Alice knew - T A Cotterell - a moral dilemma



My Thoughts

What Alice knew is a debut novel which I would personally describe as a literary moral dilemma thriller.

It puts the reader in a situation we’d hope never to be in, asking what we would do if we were to discover our partner had done something bad, really bad, and once we knew about it we couldn’t UNknow it. How far would we go to protect our loved ones and what sacrifices would we be prepaared to make?

Alice is a very successful portrait artist, beside her rewarding career she has a great life which many would envy she is married to a successful obstetrician helping families, saving babies, a good, solid man. Living in upmarket suburbia with their 2 children they have it all, but one fateful night, husband Ed doesn’t come home and after this aberration nothing is going to be the same again.

Strange things happen, a phone call, some flowers and a confession that shatters Alices carefully polished veneer and knocks her sideways. A name from the past emerges, things are said, decisions are made and a metaphorical sinkhole begins to open under Alice’s feet.

Alice’s wonderful life begins to crumble into this pit and she has some awful resolutions to make, should she stand by her man, how much can she really trust him and what effect is this going to have on their lives?

We soon wonder who can we trust? Lies aplenty, secrets galore and enough twists to curl your hair.

The book is written in first person narrative in Alices voice, a method which usually ensures I become deeply immersed in the character, but I found Alice almost impossible to empathise with, though I could sympathise greatly with her dilemma. Her motives are hard to accept and my opinion of her kept changing but I never felt deeply connected to her.

I find it a little strange, that the whole book hinges around her desire to protect their 2 children, yet they are portrayed as, at best, shadowy characters firmly at the axis of this story yet who remained separate from it. The author had so much scope for developing their personalities and exploring their feelings, but they were so indistinct I can’t even remember their names, the day after finishing the book.

The suspense builds throughout the book and the goalposts keep moving, what we know of as fact at the end of one chapter becomes skewed by the next one and there are some great twists I didn’t see coming.

The story is very thrilling and tense and the narrator, Alice, often a touch unreliable. The ending is rather a punch in the gut and I had to read it twice as it is easy to misinterpret.


A great debut, very enthralling and sure to be talked about as it raises many discussion points and will also be one I’d recommend for reading groups who want some meaty dilemmas to thrash out.

My thanks go to Becky Hunter at Penguin Random House for my exclusive advance bloggers copy.

The Blurb (taken from Goodreads)

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.


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