Post Script: The Bones of You – Debbie Howells

 The perfect example of domestic noir.

Description:
I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft‑petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.
Children who don’t die before their parents.

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.

 

My View:
The perfect example of domestic noir.

After I finished reading this book I sat back and went WOW and then went to bed exhausted, it was after all past 1.30am but I could not put this down till I had read every single last word. I devoured this book. I savoured the words. This intimate portrait of manipulation and domestic violence – physical, emotional and psychological, is intense and accurate and is handled superbly and gently – which I think is a very effective way to treat the power imbalances here (I have worked in women’s refugees in a past life and know of how destructive these kinds of control/behaviours are and how realistic these examples are). In this novel we mostly we learn of these “truths” after the events, some almost a lifetime after…the voice from the grave is very effective; haunting, poignant, powerful.

I loved hearing Rosie’s voice, her memories. Her observations are powerful, painful and mostly joyless and so so sad, never have flash backs worked so evocatively. The anecdote regarding a pink TV is just heart breaking. (No spoilers here.)

Rosie’s story begins like this “It’s true, what they say about when you die. In the final, terrible seconds of my life, eighteen years flash before my eyes.” Yet this is not a dreary, weepy melodrama, the truths delivered via Rosie’s voice from the grave are relayed matter-of-factly, merely observations of a past life, made without judgement, what a great device. As Rosie recounts her life story the author allows the reader to make their own judgements and as I sat reading I clenched my teeth with rage at the harshness and injustices here and for all victims of family violence.

The theme that leapt out from the pages to me was about the power of truth. Truth can hurt, can see you free, truth can be harsh and hard to accept, and even harder to identify. Howells comments “…we can use all out skills, our experience, observe body language, read between as many lines as we choose, but we see mostly what we want to see. And if someone wants to hide the truth we may never know.” All we have is our own interpretation and understanding of the world and people. Intuition is something that should not be discarded.

This is a tightly plotted, very well executed, multiple viewpoint narrative that explores some very dark topics that are handled with a sensitivity that doesn’t beat the reader into a particular position – rather it allows the reader to form their own views and make their own guesses as to who is responsible for causing so much sorrow and pain in this narrative. As I delved deeper into the novel I made several unsuccessful guesses and only in the last few chapters did I understand who had murdered Rosie and their motives. This is an excellent example domestic noir.

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8 thoughts on “Post Script: The Bones of You – Debbie Howells

  1. To me, it’s so interesting, Carol, how domestic noir has become so popular recently. There are certainly a lot of layers to peel back when it comes to families, so it makes sense that that would be the context for a lot of crime fiction. Glad you thought this one good read.

    • I did indeed like this one Margot – so much I have the ebook and the paperback 🙂 Do you think the popularity has anything to do with social media/media allowing the survivors of such crime to have a louder voice, so now their stories are part of the narrative of life a writers draws on?

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