The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin

 

42259888Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Publishing Date: 7th February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 21.02.2019)

 

Synopsis:

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…

Rating: three-stars

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.

 

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The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin / Blog Tour (Guest Post)

Hello guys, the lovely Jo Baldwin, author of “The Good Friend” that is set in the wonderful France during one hot summer and touches upon such issues as toxic friendship, mental health and betrayal and which is full of darkness and tension, has written a brilliant Guest Post for her blog tour stop today. She’s chosen three brilliant things to write about – thank you so much, Jo! –  so put your feet high and enjoy and then treat yourself to the book!

 

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GUEST POST

  1. Books that helped shaped me/my writing

 

I am drawn to stories in which strong, yet complex, characters – usually women – form strong bonds with friends or siblings. When I was a child, my mum passed onto me her copy of Little Women by Louisa M Alcott, and until I could read the words, I would spend hours poring over the beautiful full-colour illustrations, wishing that I could be part of the March family and share in their lively experiences. I grew up with three older brothers, so there was always a part of me that yearned for a sister.

Setting is also very important for me in a novel. When I was 20, I spent a year working as a teaching assistant in a small town near Provence. While there, I read all of the novels by the French author Sébastien Japrisot. My favourite was L’EtéMeutrier (One Deadly Summer), a psychological and suspenseful tale, which unravels slowly during a sultry and oppressive summer heat wave in 1970s southern France. The setting is like another character and serves to build tension and drive the characters to near-madness in this captivating story, which had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the main character Elle. She is so multi-layered – manipulative and seductive, yet fragile.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is another novel that I first read in my twenties and which has stayed with me. Again, it’s the dry, dusty heat of California which affected me greatly when reading this story. As a reader you get a great sense of location and space, and how the setting itself plays an important part in developing the characters’ behaviours. There’s so much sadness in this story but it’s a powerful tale – a retelling of Cain and Abel. All of the main characters are compelling and complex. I remember reading it for the first time and being so shocked by the pure evil nature of Cathy. Again, another strong female character, but this time, one who destroys those around her.

  1. Researching The Good Friend

It was fairly easy to research the setting of The Good Friend as I have spent a lot of time in the Languedoc during the past 16 years. There’s a small lake close to our family house, which is idyllic to swim in during the summer months, but it can seem murky and uninviting out of season. For the sake of research, I decided to bite the bullet and take a swim in it one cold grey autumnal day so that I could experience it as if I was Kath, one of the main characters in my novel. As soon as I jumped in and felt the reeds lashing at my ankles, I shrieked with pure fright. It felt as if I was swimming in a pond full of eels. The sensation was truly horrible, but it helped me to get inside Kath’s head and experience what she felt when she looked down at Jenny swimming in the soupy green water.

3. My writing process

I don’t have an enormous amount of free time in which to write as I work most days as a freelance marketing consultant. However, I keep Friday as a writing day and try to make it as productive a day as possible.

First I go to an early morning yoga class and try to clear my head of mundane thoughts, so that I can draw on something more inspiring than what to cook for dinner. I’m home by 9.15am and usually put a wash on, before making a coffee and taking it to my desk, where I try to work undisturbed until my sonreturns home from school at 3:30. If I’m struggling to find the words, I’ll reach for a novel from one the many bookshelvesaround the house and read a chapter to see if it can stimulate my thought buds. If that doesn’t work, I make another coffee and hang up the washing. I keep several notebooks around one, even one by my bed, so that if I think of a plot detail or a sentence that’s been bouncing about in my head, I can write it down quickly before I forget it. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with an idea then forgetting about it half an hour later, because I didn’t jot it down!

Jo Baldwin

18 Feb 2019

 

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