The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin
Publisher: RedDoor Publishing
Publishing Date: 7th February 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 320
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
The pain still lies deep within me. I’ve learnt to ‘manage’ it over the years, but today it feels stronger, throbbing like a toothache, yet in the pit of my stomach.
Heavenly Creatures meets The Hand That Rocks the Cradle in this exciting debut novel about friendship, love and jealousy.
Once upon a time they were best friends. They were all friends. So when Jenny moved to Australia to focus on her swimming career, she not only lost Kath, but her soul-mate Tom. It was for the best. Or so they said. Now, eight years later, Jenny seeks out her childhood friend and heads to rural France where Kath has settled. At first the women fall back into a close relationship, but before long strange and malicious behaviour leads Jenny to realise the truth: that Kath has played a clever game all along to manipulate and control those around her. And Jenny is her biggest victim.
Set against the glorious backdrop of the Languedoc lavender fields, The Good Friend is a beautifully written psychological drama about love, lies and a dangerous obsession. Because once the truth is revealed, there’s no going back…
Jenny and Kath were inseparable best friends but then Jenny moved to Perth, Australia, to focus on her swimming career. She had to leave everything and everyone she loved behind: Kath, but also her boyfriend Tom. It was supposed to be different but life is a bitch and they lost touch, but they still kept hearing about each other, and so Jenny knows that Kath and Tom married and have a little girl. Few years later, as Jenny is considering retirement, she travels to the South of France to reconnect with Kath and Tom, who are setting a guest house there. Jenny decides to stay for longer and help them with the opening. At the surface it looks like the friends simply fall back into easy friendship, as they left it, but soon Jenny starts to realise that there is much more to Kath and her marriage than meet the eye. Also, her old feelings to Tom start to resurface – how is the summer going to end?
The story jumps between past and present so that we slowly learn about the relationships between the friends and slowly a full picture of their personalities start to emerge. I couldn’t feel any connection to the characters. They felt a little too wooden for my liking and to be honest I really didn’t like what was happening between Jenny and Tom. It was obvious what has happened in the past and why Tom is now with Kath but I simply couldn’t see anything to justify what was happening. For the sake of old times? I was missing chemistry, connection there to be honest. I’m not sure if it was the author’s intention but you simply can’t help but immediately feel sympathy and antipathy to the two main characters. Tom was a rather flat character, there was no colour in him and he couldn’t make up his mind. I think that out of the three characters it was Kath that was the most expressive and interesting, even if she was also the most irritating probably, but there was life in her, she was unpredictable and sharp and this made her stand out. The tension between Jenny and Kath was really well captured, even though they didn’t want to see it or to admit that it’s there, hanging in the air, especially at the beginning of Jenny’s visit, and the fact that Jenny and Tom start to realise that their old feelings rekindle didn’t help as well.
What I missed was the other perspective, as I really couldn’t get the motives, what was hidden behind the “you and me for ever” – jealousy? Was that it? There was also a sentence told by Jenny hinting at the fact that perhaps she was the one that was plotting, when she said if only Kath knew what a friend she was, and so I was wondering if perhaps the last few pages are going to change the perspective totally. They didn’t. So I’m really left hanging somewhere in the air, not knowing what it was all about. And please forgive me but I didn’t get the end – can somebody pretty please literally explain it to me?
Altogether “The Good Friend” was a very slow moving story. I did enjoy the part in France, loved the descriptions of the guest house, but I desperately wanted for something to happen and for it to go somewhere, especially with the author hinting that something is going to happen/has happened. It was a dark family drama touching upon mental issues as well. It was full of wonderful descriptions of the rural France, its weather and fantastic market and fresh baguettes, and the writing style was light, easy to follow and engaging. There was a lot of potential in this story that – I have a feeling – wasn’t fully used. It was filled with tons of emotional baggage and it told a story of lies and jealousy, about manipulation and toxic friendship.