Sunday, February 25, 2018

What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew is a different kind of psychological thriller from some that I've been reading. Alice has a pretty good life- the wife of an obstetrician, two kids, fairly comfortable- but it all goes wrong when her husband gets drunk at a party and spends the night with a younger woman. A woman who then turns up dead. Her husband Ed is not the kind to stray, and indeed he even denies at first that he slept with her- if he did he doesn't remember it- but the police soon hone in on him as a prime suspect. So this is not a story of who did it- it's a story about what do you do when it's possible that your spouse killed someone. 

The murder also appears to be accidental, if it was murder. Alice soon finds that she is pulled in different directions as she struggles with doing the right thing- whatever that is. Her own family history complicates things, as does her incomplete understanding of what actually happened. She also has to deal with the re- emergence of an old friend from school, who may not have her best interests at heart, and even acquaintances who may know more than she does.  

Alice is also a portrait artist, and she spends a lot of time agonizing over the search for truth in art, and applying that to her life. That's part of the reason she thinks they should consider going to the police, which of course Ed opposes. For Alice truth is important, but not just because telling the truth is the right thing to do, but because again her art background demands truth. Or something. To be honest I thought this aspect of the book was overdone. I understand that her vocation is important to her, but given the circumstances it seemed way out of proportion to what was going on. 

Ed was interesting too. He opposes going to the police not because he's afraid of being caught (although that is a concern), but he's worried about what it will do to their kids to have their father go to jail. Alice initially agrees with him, and the choices she makes are part of the draw of this story. Again, until her art concerns almost take over. At one point I was seriously wondering whether Alice had her priorities in the right place. She makes mostly good decisions although as time goes on I started to question her more and more.  

The subplot regarding her old school friend was interesting, and provided some nice tension. Alice has a secret in her past that involves the two of them, and the timing is interesting that she reappears in Alice's life just when the murder occurs. The only issue I really have is the story moves kind of slowly. I was intrigued but it took a while to get going. And the end is one I'm very conflicted over. It came out of left field for me, and I have serious reservations about the choices the author made here. This of course makes the book perfect for discussion, and there's a lot to dissect here. A nice psychological thriller, light on the suspense but definitely worth talking about. 


SPOILERS

The ending is one I did not see coming, as I mentioned above. And I didn't really buy it, frankly. It did affect my enjoyment of the novel overall- after all, would someone really do that? Alice decides to take the fall for her husband, confessing to the murder- and while that's a pretty good twist, I just don't think it works. She has a troubled family history, with an overbearing mother who stinted on truth and affection while she was growing up, and that plays a role- Alice is dealing not only with what her husband did, but with baggage from her own youth. And the mental image she has of Ed and the kids having fun at the table, as if this somehow justifies her taking the fall- does she really think Ed is the one better suited to raise them?- just baffled me. 

So what do you think? If you've read this I'd love to know your thoughts. Also what did you think of the subplot with Marnie/ Marianne? Aside from the art questions- I don't feel qualified to discuss the nuances of portraiture- I thought the shared history they had, and Alice's guilt, were very compelling and made a great addition to the story. 

43 comments:

  1. What’s with the name Alice in book titles? I think I’ll skip this one. I need my suspense to move quickly.

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  2. This sounded interesting when I first read the synopsis. After reading your review I'm also going to skip this one. Why wouldn't the police notice they have the wrong person. Great review Greg.

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  3. I'm still trying to figure out why honesty in art would have anything to do with her ability to make decisions. I also don't think all artists paint the truth. Powerful men in history were frequently depicted differently in their paintings. Artists would be terrified of upsetting a king or queen (or someone else with sway), so they would paint them in a more favorable way (or die). Art does not necessarily mean honesty, but is open to interpretation. There are many reasons behind art, and one can only guess the artists true intentions and motivations (unless explicitly noted by the artist).

    Sorry for the ranting! I'm already frustrated with Alice and I haven't read the book! Like you said, I feel like her priorities were skewed. She should have been focusing on her family, and not her vacation.

    This will probably be a skip for me, too. The slow pace doesn't do it any favors either. Bummer!

    Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. I had that problem too! And ha ha that's okay- Alice frustrated me too! Some of her decisions smh. But I liked her as well- could relate to SOME of what she did? And the slow pace didn't kill the book but it was a bit slower than a lot of thrillers I read...

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  4. This sounds diff from your typical whodunit, and very psychological. From what you said, it does sound like the art/truth thing was a bit overdone, I've come across things like that in books too. I read the spoiler, and I agree the ending sounds baffling, doesn't seem to make much sense. Glad you still enjoyed certain things though.

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    1. It really is. Very much more about what do you do
      AFTER the event- and you KNOW the spouse did it- rather than usual who dun it. I did think the art thing was overdone. I think I know where the author was going, and appreciated it to a point, but it was too much? Considering someone was dead?

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  5. The concept of relating art with truth is very interesting. It also sounds like a very good essay topic XD

    But seriously, this sounds like a pretty interesting book, and you review was great Greg.

    Anne @ The Reading life

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    1. It would be a great essay topic! And on a certain level I saw where the author was going here- and who am I to say that art doesn't inform life- but at the same time it didn't entirely work for me, as a murder was involved!

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  6. I haven't read this, but I don't know that I would after knowing that ending. I just finished a BA Paris novel with an ending that made no sense to me, and I need sense Greg, so given your review, I think I'll take a step back from this.

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    1. Ha I hear you! I need a little sense too, a lot of these thrillers ask us to suspend disbelif as it is, and a wacky ending just makes it worse! I think you're not going to be too deprived if you skip this!

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  7. I think Alice would have driven me nuts! That twist doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.

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    1. It didn't make sense here either- why would she do that??????

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  8. It lookes intriguing there but it's too bad for the end...

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    1. Yeah the ending was tough for me, hard to believe.

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  9. I think I'll probably be skipping this one. Between the description of Alice and a questionable ending, I think I would be disappointed.

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    1. The ending kind of ruined it for me? Alice meant well but the art thing just shook things up a bit- like why is she worried about art when her husband may have killed??

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  10. Ooh, interesting! I like the idea of, how do you reconcile the person you know (your spouse) with the potential of them being a murderer (even if accidental)? I think that ending would really bother me, though!

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    1. Exactly! It dealt with those questions a LOT. If a spouse kills someone by accident- or isn't even sure- what do you do? The ending threw me tho.

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  11. The initial description of the book sounded very interesting (and now I'm curious as to the whole murder plot), but the way you described the heroine has put me off a little! Weird, unreasonable decisions and priorities are always a turn-off for me. :( Awesome review though!

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

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    1. Thanks Aimee. I would say this is a middle of the road book for me- -not bad but not my favorite.

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  12. worried about the ending. I have been wanting to read this as well, hope I have it, kind of curious how I will feel about it

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    1. It's not bad, but it is slow (or at least it was for me).

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  13. I like these types of books, usually, but you have me a little worried about the slow start & the not so great ending. I'll probably take a look at it if my library gets a copy because I'm a sucker for this kind of thing.

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    1. It's not a bad book, but it a bit slower than a lot of thrillers I think?

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  14. It’s always a let down to me when you get to the end of a thriller that you have been enjoying and the twist at the end just doesn’t work.

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    1. Yea the twist here was surprising, but a little out there!

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  15. As a Thriller, this sounds more like something I would be interested in reading. I might just check it out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

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  16. Oh wow, now this sounds really interesting! Definitely think I'll check this one out. Great review!

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    1. It was an interesting book, for sure!

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  17. Eh to it moving slow but sounds interesting. So interested in how it ended now!!

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  18. This one sounds awesome, even if it does move a bit slowly.

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    1. Yeah it was slow, very deliberate, but not bad?

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  19. This probably isn't a book for me but lately I've been readings books with characters and choices I didn't understand or like. While not loving the books, I'm still liking them and that they make me question my assumptions (kind of like with Bad Girls with Perfect Faces). This definitely sounds like a good book club/discussion book.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. It was a little slow for me. I do think this would generate a lot of discussion though in a book group. And I hear you- I've been seeming to get a lot of reads like that too. Bad Girls With Perfect Faces is still my favorite recent thriller type read tho. :)

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  20. This sounds like a pretty interesting read, although the slow pacing is a little concerning. You definitely have me curious about the ending though. From what you're saying, it does sound like it would lend itself to some interesting discussions. It would probably be a great book club selection.

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    1. I think it would be a GREAT book club discussion book, and might get some interesting discussion going. the twist is really out there, at least to my mind.

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  21. Okay so, I read the spoilers, because I am already pissed off at Alice and her art. How is she going to do her suuuuuper important art now that The Spoiler happened?! Maybe she was just sick of them all and wanted to get away haha. Seriously, it makes NO sense, clearly she'd be the better one to care for the kids, right? Was she just soooooo in love with him that she did it? (I am rolling my eyes at the mere thought- like come on, HE was the one who did the bad thing! Even if he wasn't guilty of murder, he was still guilty of being a lying cheater, so there's that.)

    Bottom line is, "What Alice Knew" should have a tagline that reads "Not Common Sense". I am moderately curious because I do what to know what would compel her to behave this way but... I think I'd want to stab her too much hah. Great review!!

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    1. Right? I think the author really tried to lay the groundwork so that the twist WOULD work, and now I can see hints, but stil... not really buying it? And as to your question, does she really think he's better equipped- you know he IS a good guy, mostly, or the author wants us to think he is?, but still not buying it!

      Ha right I agree. I was pretty disappointed with that end.

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  22. thrillers are not my top fav genre so if they move slowly it's probably a DNF :( I don;t think I would enjoy Alice's spending a lot of time agonizing over the search for truth in art! LOL

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  23. I didn't read the spoilers because I have this one on my TBR though I keep confusing it with the other book with Alice in the title that's about early onset dementia. That's too bad about the slowness though. I may have to get this one on audio. I can deal with a slow book a bit better if I'm listening vs reading.

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  24. Great review. I didn't read the spoiler part because I have been trying to read more thrillers and I might just have to chekc this one out. Thanks for sharing!

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  25. This looks like such a compelling book! A pity about the end (I hate when the ending's the thing that ends up letting you down!) but I do love the premise and the sound of the characters.
    Brilliant review :)

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