Saturday, 7 July 2007

Susanna Jones – The Missing Person’s Guide to Love (Review)

It’s going to be difficult to review this book satisfactorily, for a number of reasons, but mainly because I will have to be careful not to give too much away. This is what the publisher says about it:
Isabel, Owen and Julia were childhood friends. But when they were fifteen, Julia disappeared without a trace – an event that had a devastating impact on the others.

Years later, Isabel returns to her home town in the north of England
for Owen’s funeral. She hadn’t seen him since they recklessly burned down the local supermarket together; he was sent to prison and she, just shy of her 18th birthday, to a young offenders’ centre. Isabel suspects that Owen was responsible for Julia’s murder, and she’s hoping finally to find some kind of resolution.

Feeling cut off from her husband and child in Turkey, and awash with unexpected memories, Isabel ventures further into the murky depths of her past. But nothing is as it seems – either past or present – and as Isabel’s world unravels we finally realise the stunning, shattering truth . . .

If you have read either of Susanna’s earlier novels, The Earthquake Bird and Water Lily, then you will have an idea of the sort of thing to expect. The writing is superb, deceptively simple and with real pace. I had been warned on Wednesday that I needed to concentrate so I made a conscious effort to read more slowly. If I hadn’t I would probably have whizzed through the book in a single sitting, and may have ended up as confused as dovegreyreader. Because – as the blurb says – nothing is as it seems.

I think if you read the book as a detective novel (which up to a point it is, with Isabel trying to discover the truth about what happened to her friend Julia) you should spot the clues to what’s really going on. This is a very clever book by a fine writer.


Mary Witzl said...

I like books that are not obvious, and the one sure way to attract my interest is to use the phrase 'Nothing is as it seems.' So I will keep an eye out for this book.

There are a lot of good reasons for being a writer (to offset the bad ones such as lack of social life, depression over constant rejections, etc.), but perhaps the best one is that you hear about good books a lot sooner than most people. And boy, is my reading list growing!

Paul said...

Mary - you're not wrong about the not-so-good reasons for being a writer. I've just had another couple of rejections, and they never get any easier to take, do they? Simenon was right, it really is a vocation of unhappiness. But the good reasons for writing seem to me to far outweigh the bad ones. I wouldn't change back to being rich and happy for the world!

nicole said...


I didn't understand the ending at all. Is the woman I've been following as a reader dead? Did I follow a ghost?

And is Julia the one that's married and has a child?

Could you perhaps explain the book to me?

best regards,
nicole from the Netherlands

Anonymous said...

Nicole, I completely agree. I was left very confused and wondering was I the only person who just didn't get it. I was disappointed to say the least, not because of the twist, but because I don't think the twist was very well explained.

Anonymous said...

I just finished this book and I'm so annoyed because I didn't understand the "twist" (I still don't know if Isabel is in fact Julia, or if she's dead or if the book has been narrated by a fictional character by Maggie, another character within the book). I enjoyed other books by Jones but this one has driven me nuts and not in a good way. I can't even find an explanation on it anywhere.

If anyone has a clue what the story is, or who Isabel is then please do enlighten me.