*****Review contains spoilers*****
I really had a hard time reading this book. I was extremely annoyed by Joanna from the beginning. I was about stop reading. But then I was too curious how the book would go on. It finally reconciled me to the end. But I really did not like it.
Joanna is in a bar with a friend and an unpleasant stranger tries to flirt with her. On her way home she hears fast steps behind her. She suspects that it is the man from the bar, but does not turn around. She panics a bit and tries to call her husband Reuben. Unfortunately, the cell phone connection breaks off. When she thinks on a staircase that her pursuer wants to grab her, she takes the initiative and pushes him down. He falls down heavy, lying face down in a puddle. Joanna hesitates. Should she run away and just let him lie or should she call the police.
From this initial situation, the author develops two differently running storylines. In one she runs away and covers up, that she was to blame for the accident. The man dies. In addition, it turns out that he was not the guy from the bar but a 17-year-old jogger. First, she is terrified that she will be caught. She becomes paranoid and does the stupidest things headless. Later, their feelings of guilt become overpowering.
In the other version, after a few minutes‘ hesitation, she calls the police. But those few minutes of waiting were already too much for her victim. The young man lies too long with his face in the puddle and got severe health damage. Joanna is arrested and put on trial. Oddly enough, the English judiciary treats her incredibly severely. Is that really the case in England? I think in Germany the case would be treated differently. Self-defence is not at issue here.
The big problem in this book is Joanna. She is just terrible. Alien and dreamy, she walks through her life. She trusts her husband that he’ll fix everything. She is an avoider. Unpleasant bills are hidden under her mattress. She is unreliable in her work; she walks through her life without a plan. She thinks herself stupid, she says to herself constantly. She does not have a good degree from the university. That must be the unmistakable sign that she is stupid. However, she always does stupid things. She never really thinks about anything. There are different types of intelligence. Joanna is intelligent and educated, but she is totally unable to manage her life. She is a very exhausting figure. At the beginning, the author let her babbles all the time. She imagines a life story for every person she sees. She reflects on how her lawyer applies her lipstick in the morning and why she chose that colour. I found that extremely exhausting. I simply flew over vast passages of Joanna’s thoughts.
I could go on grumbling about the book for ages. Of course in the first place about Joanna. She is a terrible person, neurotic and unable to make the simplest decision. She lies to everyone. She gets entangled in both stories in her lies. Her husband Reuben is a quiet guy, who only thaws properly with her alone. He likes how awkward Joanna is. He likes it when he’s right and Joanna is glad he makes all the decisions. I found both storylines a bit awkward and unbelievable. In the Conceal chapters, Joanna invents a dead girlfriend for her brother. This dead girlfriend then suddenly pops up in the other storyline. It really existed in the brother’s past without Joanna knowing about her. That legitimizes Joanna’s lie in hindsight. And is quite unlikely.
The developments of all figures run differently in both stories. Joanna’s decision affects everyone involved. Joanna’s girlfriend, for example ends up being a successful artist in one storyline, while in the other she gives up her bohemian life and takes on a „decent“ and “adult” job.
I found the idea for the book very appealing. However, it was a bit chaotic in the implementation. I’ve rarely seen a more exhausting character than Joanna. I have no problem with unsympathetic characters, but Joanna is annoying. I could not handle her exhausting stupidity. For the first quarter, I would have awarded only one star. Since the last half was much easier to read I give it 2 Stars. However, I will not read another book by the author in the future.