Saturday, 28 February 2015

"Second Life" by SJ Watson

I received a review copy of this title from

From the author of Before I Go to Sleep, comes a novel of death and discovery.  When Julia hears of her sisters death in Paris, she feels a mixture of relief and loss.  Julia had adopted Kates son when it became obvious her sister could not provide the stable environment he needed.  But lately Kate had been demanding to return of her teenage son.  The bittersweet relief of her sisters death is only momentary, and Julia begins to doubt that the death was an accident.  Gaining access to Kates online activity, she stumbles across the world of online dating and the ability to lead a second life.  Soon she is hooked.  The excitement of secret online liaisons becomes addictive and common sense is thrown out the window.  But how long can one maintain a double life before someone gets hurt?

This book seems to have a bit of the 'Gone Girl effect' about it.  You either love it or hate it.  I think the main reason for the way people feel about a character.  Some readers cannot enjoy a book where they feel uncomfortable with the protagonist, others need a more defined line between a 'nice' person in a novel and a 'distasteful' one.  I tend to go with my gut instincts and if I find myself turning the pages with great speed, it means I'm going along for the ride.  The whole concept of a second life has become more common with the accessibility of the internet in all of our lives.  While, years ago, people had to place adverts in specialised magazines or be part of secret networks of similar minded folk, now anyone can just click a button and become whomever one wants.  The current Graham Dwyer trial, in Ireland, has shown how easy it is to lead two lives independent of each other.  In SJ Watson's novel he shows how a middle aged, respectable mother and wife can slip so easily into a new role.  The role of a sexy, single, adventurous woman who is up for anything.  One day a week Kate can escape the mundane and ordinary life she has led for years and return to her pre-marriage days of  drink and drug fueled excitement and sexual abandonment.  Her sleuthing into her sister's life has opened a Pandora's Box and she is soon sucked in...

Kate is not a character that many women are going to like.  Once she begins her online journey, she appears to become two very different people.  One is traditional and stable, the other is fiesty, brave and open to fantasy.  However, if the novel is read with attention, the cracks in her personality are there before her online dalliance.  She has had addiction issues in the past, lived another life in Berlin before returning the UK to marry Hugh, a successful consultant surgeon.  The second life that she embarks on may not have been very far under the facade of her existing one.  
The first half of the novel is a little slow, as we learn of the connections between Julia, Kate, Hugh and Connor.  There are extra characters too, like Julia's best friend (who is surplus to requirement about two thirds into book) and Kate's roommate,  Anna, who helps knit together the last few months of the dead girl's life.   Text messages, secret phone calls and virtual sex are all part of the bigger picture and the reader is sucked into the heart pounding encounters of Kates new world.  Fantasies become reality and the book takes on a new pace and atmosphere.  It moved from an average psychological thriller to a deeper, more intense read that had me hooked. You don't have to agree with characters, or even like them much, to make a book a winner.   Like a roller coaster that makes you feel queasy,  this book will have your blood pumping with part shock and fear and the need to discover more, climb up that steep slope that inevitably drops down, with massive speed, on the other side.  Be brave, enjoy the ride, and look at each person you meet at the school gates or supermarket with the knowledge that everyone has inner thoughts...

Second Life is published by Doubleday Books and is available in hardback, paperback and ebook format

1 comment:

  1. I wondered how his second novel would be and it sounds just as compelling as Before I Go To Sleep - and really topical, too. I enjoyed your review. :)


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