The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
Published by Penguin Random House, 2017
An insightful, intelligently crafted novel detailing the events that happen one summer. ‘The Betrayals’ is told from the differing perspectives of four family members.
With themes that include mental illness and wider brain function, including memory, Fiona Neill tells a readable and thought-provoking story, leaving us guessing the true version of events.
The plot involves friendship and betrayal through the lives of childhood best friends, Rosie and Lisa.
Growing up together, they individually married and had children at the same time, with the two families remaining close.
Regularly taking holidays together in Norfolk, it is one summer that Lisa betrays Rosie in the greatest way a friend can.
This betrayal and the differing perspective on the events leading up to it, alongside the impact on all their lives afterwards, is the main setting of the book.
Alternating between the summer of the original betrayal and the current day (seven years later) the reader is gradually led to hear the story from the sides of all four members of Rosie’s family.
Daisy, Rosie’s teenage daughter, develops Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) around the time that the betrayal occurs.
Max, Daisy’s brother, aware of his sister’s altered behaviour, takes on a protective and caring role for her, while confused about the full cause of the upheaval in his family life.
Rosie is left devastated as her marriage crumbles and she is left to manage a teenage daughter with an illness most struggle to understand.
Finally, Nick, Rosie’s husband details his version of events, adultery and resulting altered role within his children’s lives.
The novel includes themes of relationships, friendships and family, alongside wider concepts of illness and mortality.
This book stands out, however, by it’s rare astute portrayal of the serious nature of mental illness, without making it a book about mental illness.
Daisy’s illness with OCD is insightful, well researched and sensitively written.
The portrayal of the disabling impact it has on Daisy and the wider effects on her family will help any reader develop deeper understanding on this complex condition.
Neill has also clearly researched the further workings of the brain and memory function in her writing of this novel.
As each character’s memories of the same events are told, we are led to understand that differences in memory are common.
Gradually, it becomes clear that each of the characters has put their own personal perspective, inner analysis and self-processing onto the events. These differences, though small, are significant in the effect they have on the future beliefs and actions of those involved.
I would certainly recommend this novel to anyone.
The context is unusual and Fiona Neill has used captivating and creative methods to tell the story. The book is immensely readable and the reader is left with sympathy for these flawed but likeable characters.
For the reader the novel is also thought provoking.
How much can we trust our own memories? Why does the brain function as it does?
Read this book today and see what you think… If you have read it, please share your own views in the comments below.
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