Originally published: 19 March 2020
Author: Jessica Moor
Published by: Viking Books
Length: 336 pages
Reading dates: 10-13 March 2020
The book starts with the death of young woman Katie Straw. Her body is pulled from the waters of a local suicide spot and with no signs of foul play, the police assume it is suicide.
Katie worked at a women’s refuge in Widringham as a case worker, a safe house for women and children who have been abused by partners or other family members to stay, protected from the people who hurt them. The women at the refuge are convinced Katie didn’t commit suicide – they are sure a man has been hanging around outside and combined with some abusive tweets the manager has been getting, they are convinced she was murdered.
Told from multiple points of view, we hear a lot from Katie in the past. Out for the night with friends, letting off steam, she gets chatting to a man called Jamie and we hear over the course of several months how he ingrained himself in her life. Cleverly written, we as the reader see the subtle tricks Jamie employs to get Katie under his control and the shocking thing is, I could see how easily it can happen. From influencing what she eats and drinks, to what she wears and who she sees, for the most part Katie is just accepting of what he is doing.
Interspersed with this, we also hear from each of the women from the refuge in turn and hear their stories – shocking tales of abuse and violence and control.
I knew the topic of this book was coercive control but I wasn’t prepared for how very angry it would make me. Unfortunately, the men in this book don’t come across very well (and I know the vast majority of men are not like this) but I think it was an important book to read to remind me that many women live like this. Jamie’s methods were frighteningly clever and I’m not sure if I would have spotted someone doing that to me until it was too late.
One scene that I found particularly upsetting was after a meal out, when Jamie had forced Katie to eat too much, he then wants to have sex with her, even though she is bloated and feels sick.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and begins to lay out her case. Too tired. Not feeling well. She won’t be able to get wet. It won’t be good for him.
He has lube, he points out. She can just lie there.
“I’ll do all the work.”
It is impossible to say no to Jamie. He doesn’t make it an option.
This book was an excellent read – but be warned, it is a difficult and hard hitting novel, that raises many issues including how women who have fled from abusive relationships are treated by the authorities and courts. A stunning and hard hitting debut from Jessica Moor.
Thank you so much to Ellie from Penguin Viking for inviting me on the tour and for sending me a copy of the book. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!
About the author:
Jessica Moor studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University. Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.