The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
My score: 8/10, just for the ending alone.
I was lucky enough not to have noticed the hype surrounding this book, as it has been deemed as the “summer read of 2014” by some. So I went in with a pretty clean slate, at least before the book club..
In short, I loved it. Read it. Now.
Embarrassingly I had only read around 40 pages before going to the first ever Underground Book Club (by Books on the Underground) to discuss The Lemon Grove and I felt very out of the loop. Despite knowing pretty much every aspect of the plot by the end of the evening, I still thought I’d give it a fair shot.
The basic story (and this is on the back of the book) is about a married woman who takes an unnatural fancy to the new boyfriend of her step daughter.
The book club members were shocked about all the sordid things that happen in this book. Perhaps because I was ready for this, I wasn’t too put out by it all (it’s only really in a couple of places that you wouldn’t want someone reading over your shoulder on the tube) but the thing that most distressed me was the lack of regret, guilt or care that the main character has in doing the things she does. At one point my heart lifted as she sobbed about her misgivings, but then a few hours later, off she went again! I found this quite unconvincing and I know I’m not alone on this. I felt that her character could have been more fleshed out at the start.
I’ll be honest I didn’t enjoy the book while I was reading it. It felt like the author was patronisingly leading us by the hand – like someone saying “and then I did that, and then we went there, and I felt like this”, and it felt quite immature. I got frustrated with this way of writing, not to mention the excessive detail about everyone’s appearance all the time.
Saying that, I was hooked and I hadn’t even noticed. I had a hundred pages to go when I opened it for the last time and that was that – I had to know what was going to happen. This was so strange as I didn’t even care for any of the characters!
When I reached the end, or what I should describe more accurately as “the point at which the author stopped telling us what was happening”, I felt like I had been slammed in the chest. I realised that the whole reason she was taking us so patronisingly by the hand was so that when we had been led to the end of the cliff, she would let go. And we would decide whether or not we should jump.