What We Did by Christobel Kent
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2/5/19
eBook review copy; 320 pages
What We Did by Christobel Kent is a recommended psychological study with some aspects of a thriller.
Bridget Webster has kept the abuse the occurred in her past a secret
from everyone and keeps a tight control over her emotions and reactions.
Now she's happily married to Matt and they have a teenage son, Finn.
Matt works in IT at Rose Hill University and she owns a women's clothing
boutique in town. When her childhood violin teacher, Anthony
Carmichael, shows up in her shop with a young teen he wants to buy a
dress for, Bridget can barely keep her emotions under control. When
Carmichael later returns, having recognized Bridget after all these
years, the resulting actions seem inevitable and require even more
subterfuge on Bridget's part. Then Bridget's sister Carrie shows up and
becomes involved in the situation.
At the same time reporter
Gillian "Gill" Lawson has come to town to secretly seek out Carmichael.
She has been following him for years with the certainty that he is a
long-time pedophile who has somehow escaped being caught and she wants
to finally bring an end to his secret reign of terror. She recognizes
Bridget as someone who may have been one of his early victims, but
having a reporter snooping around is not what Bridget needs right now.
This is a slow-paced novel that creates suspense through Bridget
slowly revealing more information and insight about the secrets in her
past and why that would lead her to currently do what she did. Although
there is a violent reaction which leads to a pro-long period of trying
to cover up the results of her action, the incident loses its shocking
power due to the extended coverage of the story line. After this point
any suspense or tension is created through Gill's investigation and how
odd both Bridget and Matt are acting. The ending is a surprise that I
didn't see coming.
What We Did, while it has its moments when it is in the
territory of a thriller, is at heart more of a character study. As
Bridget reveals more information about her past and the inner torment
she endures, empathy for her will increase. Based on what is revealed in
her backstory, one does wonder why a case as severe and emotionally
fraught as hers didn't come to the attention of others earlier. The
scenes between her and Matt when they both are leaving a plethora of
things unsaid also create tension.
The writing is certainly good. As I mentioned, the pro-longed cover-up
and the many things left unsaid by all the characters results in
depleting much of the immediacy of the tension and suspense. The
exception is the ending when an increased pace and sense of urgency
amplifies the tension and all the plot elements come together.
My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.