Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Review: The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson
2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

The monotony of daily routine tends to lull us into delusive safety and easily tempts us into overlooking all those tiny signs that hint at the fact that something in our life is not quite right any more. Very often it’s only a question of time until the ignored warnings add up to something more important, to something that will push us rather rudely out of the comfort zone of life as we have got used to see it into the harsh reality of life as it actually is. This is what happens at the beginning of the best-selling novel The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson and brings about not just the end of what Tami believed to be a happy marriage but also the brutal murder of her second-best friend and soul mate. Events force her to review the relationship to her husband, the character of her friends and her own behaviour. 

Dorothy Koomson was born in London, U.K., in 1971. Already as a teenager she turned to fiction writing and after studies of journalism and psychology at Leeds University, she worked as a journalist for different magazines and newspapers. In 2003 she made her successful literary debut with the novel The Cupid Effect which was followed by The Chocolate Run the next year. The eight novels published since are My Best Friend's Girl (2006), Marshmallows For Breakfast (2007), Goodnight, Beautiful (2008), The Ice Cream Girls (2010), The Woman He Loved Before (2011), The Rose Petal Beach (2012), The Flavours of Love (2013), and That Girl From Nowhere (2015). Many of them have been on best-selling lists. Dorothy Koomson lives in Brighton, U.K.

The protagonist of The Rose Petal Beach is Tamia Challey, called Tami, who lives in modern-day Brighton with her family. She is married to Scott, the CEO of an international design agency that sprang from a branch that Tami started for a multinational company years before, and she is a self-employed consultant working at home to be able to look after their two daughters aged six and eight respectively. Her life seems to be perfect until one evening the police are at the door. Scott is arrested in front of Tami and the shocked girls.
“And here we are, in the present, at that moment where my life is about to begin. I know it is about to begin because I can feel the world around me shifting: the air is different; the room … feels somehow altered now that these people are here. These police officers are here. My life is about to begin because I can feel around me the threads of my reality unravelling, waiting to be re-sewn into a new, unfamiliar tapestry.”
Since Since her best friend Bea is away on business, Tami calls her other friend Mirabelle to come over and stay with the children, while she leaves to find out the charges against her husband. After endless waiting, the officer tells her that he is accused of having tried to rape his colleague and neighbour who happens to be no other than Mirabelle. At last she understands why she was so reluctant to babysit, but for the rest she is confused. Although she knows that her husband grew up in a violent family, she doesn’t believe him capable of rape. To find an explanation she looks closer at their married life and she doesn’t like to acknowledge how he changed over the years before her very eyes. When Scott is finally released, she asks his version of the story which is that he had an affair with Mirabelle and that she is taking revenge for breaking up. However, ever again new pieces of evidence turn up that speak against him. Tami can’t cope with the situation and takes to numbing her mind with expensive wine as soon as the girls are asleep. After one such night she awakes with bruised feet and alcohol-induced amnesia. Then she learns that Mirabelle was murdered in her bathroom…

The novel The Rose Petal Beach is told in first person from the alternating perspectives of its main female characters. As the story unfolds, a quite ordinary marital relationship drama that starts with the husband’s arrest changes into a psychological thriller – murder included. However, I rather feel than positively know that there is something wrong with the psychology of the characters. I can’t really tell why but for me their depiction just doesn’t add up to make them entirely credible and realistic. Somehow they are all too one-dimensional or static, i.e. reduced to one central trait that explains everything. Or maybe it’s that everybody fools himself or herself as well as others to a degree that I simply find too hard to believe. The plot on the other hand is told with great skill. The author heightens suspense just in the right places and she includes lots of unexpected twists and turns, in fact too many to my taste because on the whole they make the novel a bit restless and I prefer a quieter or more contemplative style. Despite the mentioned imperfections it’s a gripping read that flows and is easy to follow as can be expected from a best-selling novel written by a journalist.

When I started reading The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson, I was afraid that I wouldn’t like it because the author established herself as a writer of chick lit and in general I don’t enjoy shallow women’s fiction. To my relief, the novel turned out to be a psychological thriller and a more demanding read belonging to the wide world of entertainment. Moreover I found the book better than expected. In fact, I actually liked it enough to review and recommend it here although it doesn't meet my usually high literary standards.Well, I was in the mood for something lighter.

* * * * * 

This review is a contribution to:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Dear anonymous spammers: Don't waste your time here! Your comments will be deleted at once without being read.