The single story is told in two main voices. The first voice belongs to Louise; a single mum who works part time at a local medical clinic. One night she has a drunken encounter with a man who she later discovers is her new boss, David, who has just moved to the area. The story’s other voice is Adele’s. David’s wife. She meets Louise independently of her husband and the two women become friends even though Louise feels uncomfortable about befriending the wife of a bloke she snogged. I’m not prepared to reveal much more about the plot itself other than to say it is, of necessity, complicated. The path to the three lives becoming intertwined is full of twists and half truths and things hidden beneath the surface. And Pinborough does a great job of keeping all the balls in the air yet allowing the reader to follow the increasingly ‘out there’ story.
Why then do I not feel more warmly towards the book? My main issue is that I don’t think it plays fair with the reader. And even if someone convinced me that I’m wrong on that front (good luck, see below) I wouldn’t care. Books that rely entirely on this kind of paranormal/fantasy elements are just not for me. If literally anything can be true…humans can fly unaided or politicians never lie*…then I find it almost impossible to engage with a book and certainly do not find the action in any way suspenseful. I am especially irked when the fantastical element is presented as an accepted real thing. For a while this book read as a decent psychological thriller, albeit with a daft central character. Then the ‘woo woo’ element makes the first of many, many appearances and is automatically accepted as a real thing by everyone who encounters it. I don’t want to spoil the details but this element is way past “with hard evidence I could be convinced this might be a thing some people can channel” on the spectrum of paranormal activity. It’s right around “never gonna happen, I call bullshit“. So…long before the shock ending…I had given up caring about how it would all resolve because I knew that anything, realistic or entirely ludicrous, would be possible for this story.
But getting back to playing fair…I really would be hard to convince this book does so. Even if I was the type of reader who enjoys the kind of paranormal nonsense on display here I’m confident I would still struggle with the character of Louise. No one is that naive. It’s not even a bad case of femjep, where some insipid woman is repeatedly in absurdly dangerous situations because she completely fails to learn from her mistakes and there’s always a chiselled chap around to rescue her. Louise makes a series of moronic decisions, several of which are completely at odds with being the loving mother she is portrayed as, and is completely baffled when her stupidity has unpleasant consequences. I suppose later in the book she might be being unduly influenced by Adele but her absurd naivety is evident long before that. For me fictional people have to behave in a vaguely believable way because without normal-ish human parameters constricting their behaviour they are too cartoonish and any potential for suspense is gone because they might do anything.
If you like super twisty endings and can handle a paranormal element that is utterly preposterous then you may enjoy BEHIND HER EYES. Because Pinborough writes well and the ending will genuinely surprise most readers. But if you’re at all wary of stories which rely entirely on ‘woo woo’ factors for any kind of resolution then I’d read something else. I listened to the end because my audio book selection is more limited than for printed word books and because it’s not until more than halfway through that I realised this book was going to be so heavily reliant on that paranormal element.
*in case you are concerned these are examples only, not specific to this story’s content
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Anna Bentinck, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland and Huw Parmenter
Publisher Harper Collins, 2017
Length 11 hours 28 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
Source of review copy I bought it