I finished reading this weeks ago, the delay in writing about it has come from the fact that I couldn’t work out how to write about a book that I’d so thoroughly enjoyed. I have resolved myself to the fact that I won’t be able to do this book justice, instead you can enjoy my rambling attempts to do so.
I read Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard for one of the book clubs I attend, West End Lane Crooks (dedicated to crime fiction). [I will get round to raving about the excellent bookshop West End Lane books at some point] I’ve been attending this book club for about 9 months and this is the first time we have all agreed so positively about a book. We all loved it. It was raved about so much that a tweet from the bookshop made it’s way onto the cover of the book!
In thrall of #AppleTreeYard .At this rate I’ll have to have surgically removed from hands. Can’t stop reading, but don’t want to finish
— West End Lane Books (@WELBooks) September 4, 2013
The novel opens with our heroine Yvonne on trial in a courtroom. Little is given away in this scene, though we are aware that we are glimpsing a pivotal moment in Yvonne’s life. It’s a long time before we understand why.
Yvonne is in her early fifties, a successful geneticist, happily married (or seemingly so) and with two grown up children. She has a lot to lose as the saying goes.
Yvonne is a brilliantly written character, so human and believable, and despite what you might think of some of her behaviour (more on that shortly) we are on her side throughout. Doughty has said that if this were made for TV or film she would like to see Emma Thompson in this role, which seems an inspired choice to me. This might also give you an indication of what a likable woman that Yvonne is.
The story hinges around an affair she begins early on in the novel, this is her first affair and she is swept away by the thrill and excitement of it. She meets a dashing man and within hours they have embarked on an affair. Around half the novel is dedicated to this affair, whilst the other half focuses on the courtroom.
The book is written from Yvonne’s perspective, looking back on the events that led up the trial and then the trial itself. As we are trying to piece together what led up to that opening scene in the courtroom, Yvonne is almost trying to pinpoint the moments that lead to her downfall.
Why so good?
The structure and pace of the novel are incredible, they constantly have you desperate to turn the page, but the content and the emotions present ensure that you don’t just fly through it unthinkingly.
The structure of the plot is quite remarkable, in the hands of a less skilled author it could have felt forced, but Doughty has produced an astounding book.
Much of the novel could feel like a regular Summer read / book club sort of book (yes, I appreciate the irony that I was reading it at a book club), but the quality of the writing together with the knowledge of an impending trial that we don’t fully understand make it a complex and riveting read.
This gets a score of 4 on Goodreads, which is a score I suppose that I can live with, but I’d give it a lot higher. I’m going to be forcing it onto friends all year, safe in the knowledge that they will enjoy it. One of the things that says the most is that this is a book that I would love to read again, and I very, very rarely re-read books. I’m going to give this book a score of 8.8.
Enough writing – on with the reading!