Hi guys, hope you all have a great Wednesday. Even though I thought that it’s Thursday already. Whatever a day, today I have a real treat for you – being a part of Lucy Lawrie’s blog tour there is not only a review of her latest, engaging and suspenseful “The Last Day I Saw Her” but also a great Guest Post – enjoy!
The Last Day I Saw Her
by Lucy Lawrie
Publisher: Black and White Publishing
Publishing Date: 11th August 2016
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 416
Genre: General Fiction, Suspense
When lonely single mum Janey stumbles into an art workshop, she can’t believe her eyes when her left hand mysteriously scribbles a picture of two little girls and a strange message from someone called ‘Hattie’: Janey’s childhood best friend. But they lost touch after Hattie’s family suddenly moved away in mysterious circumstances.
Janey’s instincts tell her that she must finally find out what happened to Hattie, but life is already complicated enough: she’s struggling with motherhood, a custody battle over her toddler son Pip is looming, and she finds herself falling for intense art tutor Steve. And when writing appears on the walls of her flat and Pip starts playing with an invisible friend, Janey fears she’s losing her mind. Is it really a good idea to go digging up the past? As dark secrets come to light, she can’t be sure what’s real any more – or who to trust…
Moving and suspenseful, The Last Day I Saw Her is a richly emotive story of friendship lost and found, and how facing up to the past can help you find a better future.
I can’t believe that it’s already two years since I’ve read Lucy Lawrie’s debut novel “Tiny Acts of Love” – read AND adored, let me add. I was really looking forward to reading “The Last Day I Saw Her”, as it is always incredibly exciting to see if the dreaded second novel will live up to our expectations, will be as good as the first one. This book is different to the previous one – it is equally engaging but it is a little darker, with an element of mystery to it that I really enjoyed. I was for sure not prepared for this kind of story, full of secrets, emotions and such depth.
The characters were brilliantly developed and described, and they were incredibly complex. I had a feeling that there are more faces to Janey and Hattie – it was not all easy – going with them and there were moments that I thought they’re not honest to each other, that they’re hiding something. And oh boy, they WERE hiding something but it turned out to be something absolutely different to what I was expecting – I was thinking some girls’ troubles but the secrets they had were dark and awful. Their stories are full of mystery and now yes, I know I had troubles with getting into those stories, but after finishing the book I can certainly tell that all the puzzles weave very cleverly together and you are not prepared for the outcome at the end.
As much as the characters were incredibly well developed I didn’t really feel too connected to them. Janey was complex and multi – layered but altogether I had a feeling she’s just too cold and well, she shoves her weight around but altogether she didn’t seem too disturbed by all the things. There was much talking but not a lot of action. Also, the really incredible re – union with Hattie was a tad too unrealistic – the girls seemed to love each other s much, they were such great friends, they both claimed they’ve been missing each other so much and yet it took Janey 25 years to do something to find Hattie, and as far as I understood it, she found her in the same town she’s been living? Huh? But I really liked the way they were written and that there was so much more to them than meet the eye. As for Hattie, please do let me quote a passage from a guest post that the author has so kindly written for my blog: ” When strange events happen at home and Hattie begins to see and hear things that aren’t there, she loses her happy-go-lucky outlook on life and enters a state of dread and anxiety where only Janey can reach her. She becomes convinced that she needs to ‘protect’ other people from a darkness she can sense around her and inside herself.” To be totally honest, I missed this happy – go – lucky outlook, even when Hattie was young – for me she was a disturbed girl, then a woman, who had all the world’s problems on her shoulders which was not surprising, taking the situation at her home into consideration. So you see, yes, they were a complex, difficult to like characters but they had incredible depth to them, they were exquisitely developed and no matter what your feelings to them are, you are absolutely going to feel a part of their world, you will feel engaged with their lives.
This book reminded me a lot of Linda Green’s and Tracy Buchanan’s books which basically is a great thing as I truly admire those two authors, however reading then “The Last Day I Saw Her” I had a feeling that I’ve already seen this, done this, read this. Perhaps this is my problem then, this and the great complexity of the story that I couldn’t engage as much with the characters and the story itself. It took me a lot of time to properly get into the story and I kept putting the book away and coming back to it hoping this time it’s going to be better. My major problem with this book… Somehow, which of course is not the book’s fault, I personally couldn’t get into it. There were so many question marks but not questions, and the story was changing track all the times, as if it wasn’t sure what should it focus on. There were so many layers to it, and they were so different, and I mostly felt confused because I really wasn’t sure what is the main plot and what does the author tries to tell us.
You very quickly feel a part of the characters’ world, no matter if you like them or not – the author has created incredibly true, realistic world. It is not only a story about Janey and Hattie’s friendship but an emotional rollercoaster of events. Altogether, even though for me it was not an easy read, and even though “Tiny Acts of Love” stays my top number from Lucy Lawrie right now, I truly appreciate what the author has done with this book. It is clever, it is intelligent, it is full of twists and turns and had rich characters with a depth. A bonus point for re – introducing some of the characters from the debut novel! It was a thought – provoking, strong and complex read mixing elements of mystery and suspense, a story of friendship and different kind of relationships.
The Last Day I Saw Her – Character Portraits
Janey was brought up by her austere Scottish grandparents, living quiet as a mouse in their cabbage-smelling house, while her mother ‘followed her dreams’ in London, playing bit-parts in West End musicals.
The bright point in her childhood is Hattie – her best friend from school. They’re an incorrigible pair, always hatching plans and plots over at Hattie’s house. Janey craves the attention of Hattie’s glamorous mother and her musical prodigy brother, James, wishing that she, too, could be part of the family.
Although she’s naturally timid, Janey has a stubborn, determined side when it comes to protecting Hattie, and she is intensely loyal.
But when the girls are twelve years old Hattie leaves school – and Edinburgh – suddenly, in mysterious circumstances, plunging Janey first into bewilderment and then intense grief, when she realises she is never coming back.
Playing the piano is the only thing that lessens her loneliness, and she becomes so accomplished that a career in music is very much within her grasp. But for reasons that she guards closely, she gives up music when she is seventeen.
Later we meet Janey when she’s in her thirties, and single mum to toddler son, Pip. She doubts herself constantly. She lost her job as a legal secretary when she became pregnant by her boss, Murray, and she worries that no-one will want to employ her again. Even now she finds it difficult to stand up to him, and his terrifying uber-lawyer girlfriend, Gretel. She compares herself to the other seemingly perfect mums in the Jungle Jive class, and worries that she is not being a good mum to Pip, who eats only jam sandwiches and fishfingers.
When she decides to try and find Hattie again, something about that process makes her rediscover her stubborn, determined side – and her passionate side. She begins a relationship with intense art tutor Steve, who encourages her to take up music again. She starts to feel different – like she’s coming back to life after all these years.
But when things start moving themselves around in her flat, and Pip starts talking to a mysterious imaginary friend, who scribbles sinister messages on the walls of her flat, Janey starts to fear she’s going mad.
As the story progresses we begin to realise that there are secrets from her past that she hasn’t yet faced up to – secrets so powerful that they threaten to crack her world right down its centre.
Hattie comes from a wealthy and prestigious family – her father is a famous composer of Broadway musicals, her brother is a musical prodigy and her mother is a sparkling socialite, and heiress to a large fortune made in the hotel industry.
Hattie is the opposite from her family in many ways. Where they take themselves very seriously, she is irreverent, comical and spirited. Where they are concerned with status and appearances, Hattie has a unique ability to see straight through to the heart of things, and the emotional truth that lies there.
Although Hattie’s every physical and practical need is catered for, her family can’t or won’t provide the emotional closeness that she craves, so she finds this instead in best friend Janey.
When strange events happen at home and Hattie begins to see and hear things that aren’t there, she loses her happy-go-lucky outlook on life and enters a state of dread and anxiety where only Janey can reach her. She becomes convinced that she needs to ‘protect’ other people from a darkness she can sense around her and inside herself. Janey finds it harder and harder to comfort Hattie and allay her fears, until one day Hattie disappears.
Murray and Janey aren’t together as a couple, but he is the father of her toddler son, Pip. In fact, Murray appeared in my first novel, Tiny Acts of Love, as main character Cassie’s nightmare boss-from-hell! In this novel, he still likes to call the shots, but we see a different, softer side to him – he’s been changed by fatherhood. He is also well and truly under the thumb of his girlfriend, Gretel!
Janey begins a relationship with art tutor, Steve, who is a bit of a tortured soul. They fall hard for one another – there’s an intense physical attraction but Steve is also highly intuitive and is able to read Janey’s emotions in a way which nobody has been able to do since Hattie. However, at times Janey senses a dark undercurrent to Steve’s feelings – he is fighting their intimacy, even while he’s consumed by wanting it. As secrets from the past emerge, Janey is not sure whether she should follow her heart, which tells her to give herself up to Steve, or her head, which is telling her to run as fast as she can.
CHECK THE OTHER STOPS ON THIS GREAT BLOG TOUR!