I finished reading this novel a day ago, after staying up into the early hours glued to its pages. This is one of those few books that are so absorbing, so complex, that I had no idea how everything was going to be resolved. And that is why, during several intervals of reading, I stopped to wonder how someone could craft such a deep, many-layered and engrossing story with so many twists and turns and surprises just when you thought you had figured everything out.
As soon as I found out the novel’s premise – a teacher-student relationship – I instantly knew I had to buy the book. Something about it told me I would enjoy this novel. I didn’t regret it.
The characters all have their own stories to tell, and the subplots are so carefully woven together that it truly is a work of art. I was drawn quickly into the illicit relationship between Jess Hart and Matthew Landley right from page one, and it was one of those rare stories that keeps you up at night wondering what the hell would happen to the hapless pair. It was engrossing.
There were characters I loved, and characters I hated – everyone was so well drawn out that I could almost see the characters standing in front of me as I read. One of the characters I absolutely loathed was Sonia Laird, along with Dr Zak Foster. Both characters were unlikable for different reasons, but what was great about this book is that it doesn’t tell me who to like or dislike, it just does so well at painting each person vividly and showing their flaws that I can make up my mind about each person the way I would in real life. What’s more, what may surprise you about this novel is who you find yourself rooting for. This is not your average book about a predatory teacher and victimized pupil. It takes that scenario and turns it on its head, showing you the inner workings of this forbidden relationship and planting you right inside Landley’s mind, showing you his exact motivations every step of the way as he crosses line after line with fifteen-year-old Jess Hart.
This book also made me think about the idea of fate, destiny and soul mates. Why are two people drawn together again and again over the course of a lifetime? This story doesn’t openly touch on this theme, but it made me think of it all the same. What the novel does in fact explore is the theme of motherhood. Jess’s best friend Anna is desperate to have children while Jess is dealing with her own motherhood-related issues, along with an alcoholic mum. It also explores the moral issue of whether it is ever right to cross the boundary between teacher and pupil. It makes you think deeply about the issues raised and ask questions, which is a true art and takes a very talented writer to pull off. All this comes together to make a heart-breaking and unforgettable story that remains with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
Overall, this was a gripping thrill of a read, involving love, hate, heartbreak, friendship, betrayal and forbidden love. All these ingredients come together to create a masterpiece which is as close to perfect as a novel can get.