I received a copy of this via http://www.lovereading.co.uk/ in return for an honest review.
When five year old Anna is snatched from the school gates, the whole country watches the story unfold. Mother, Julia is first in the spotlight. A successful lawyer, the public dissect her life and begin their harsh judgments online. Newspapers hop on the bandwagon and use the family's story to increase sales. Father, Brian escapes most of the bitterness and instead retreats within himself. Through all this, Anna seems to be forgotten. The story of her mother’s failings as a parent seem to be what people thrive on. When Anna is found, her disappearance becomes an afterthought but Julia's nightmare continues.
Alex Lake has written a story that has echoes of Madeline McCann's disappearance. A missing child is bad enough, but add in some 'parental neglect' and you have some serious newspaper columns and bitter social media campaigns. Throughout the novel the reader hears the mother’s side of the story and while one can only imagine what it is like to suffer the fear and desperation of such a situation, Julia is not a likable mother. She is selfish, completely self-centred and does not seem to have an empathetic bone in her body. Her treatment of her husband is downright nasty and some of her snide and hurtful comments throughout the book had me wince with distaste. She is cruel and spiteful to anyone she considers below her and she seems to be lacking a vital part of anyones make up. Niceness. The plot is not too surprising as the blurb on the cover explains that Anna is found, and the police involvement in the case is very weak. This is an ok thriller that could have been a completely different book, had it been edited differently. More suspense and tension could have been added by not revealing Anna’s return on the cover. The imbalance between Julia and Brian was too extreme. He was an annoying weakling with no spine, she was the hard-faced bitch. Maybe a bit more realism could have lent some credibility to the characters. Poor Anna barely gets a look-in and the ‘investigation’ into her disappearance could have been played out. The book gains some momentum about forty pages from the end, but I found this too little, too late. The narrative surrounding social media activity during, and after, Anna’s disappearance was cleverly written. Twitter is a wild and wonderful source of ‘brave’ yet anonymous opinion and can be full of time-wasting trolls with no conscience. You can almost picture the heart-pounding, gut-wrenching moments where Julia would scroll through the cruel hashtags and see what people were saying about her. Did The McCanns do the same? Do they still?
Although this has already reached bestseller lists, and no doubt will remain there for a while longer, I was underwhelmed. Alex Lake is a pseudonym and while there are many suggesting it may be a female writer, I am unsure. There is a little lacking on the ‘mothering’ front, which may suggest a male writer. But, obviously, there’s a 50% chance I’m wrong. This is an easy read, ideal for dipping into on a train journey and not losing any sleep over. Maybe the next one will have more suspense from the start. A name to watch out for…
After Anna is published by Harper and is available in paperback and ebook format. You can order your copy, here. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: