This has a solid premise. An old friend turns up after twenty years on the doorstep of a woman who had in the interim period both pined for a rekindling of their friendship yet also experienced great guilt.
Twenty years before Iowa Writer’s Workshop student Charlotte had slept with room-mate Esme’s boyfriend – a one night stand whilst Charlotte’s partner, Will, was in Italy. Who knew what about that night and whether there would be any ramifications when Esme resurfaces suggested a novel of revenge and a simmering resentment which seemed to have potential.
Unfortunately for me, this novel didn’t hit home. Firstly, there was too much back story and the amount of detail given didn’t drive on Charlotte’s present day dilemma. Over the twenty years that had elapsed Charlotte hadn’t told Will, now her husband, and they were now living a life of writing and dry academia that never felt convincing but I suspect existed only to give the tale a more literary feel. Their occupation was obviously important but no real feel for what they were doing in their everyday life comes across. Will is such a dry husk of a man that it didn’t seem to matter whether he knew of his wife’s lapse of judgement. I also could not believe in the circumstances which led to the one night stand so obnoxious is the object of Charlotte’s (brief) attention.
It works best as a tale of a battle between two women in a relationship which veers between love and hate- a poison alliance of jealousy and one-upmanship, but I’m not sure if this aspect is intended to be the author’s central theme. The fascinating potential of reviving that relationship twenty years on is largely underdeveloped. There is an odd sequence where Charlotte finds a short story she wrote a the time with thinly-veiled characters which is reproduced more or less in its entirety with no clear reason for this other than to underline the writer’s feelings about the relationship at the time (which we can deduce from the lengthy back story anyway).
A book with unrealised potential is disappointing and perhaps whilst reading it I placed too much significance on Esme turning up on the doorstep after a long absence. It’s not a disaster by any means but with clearer intentions, more now rather than then and a fleshing out of the present day Charlotte and Will it could have been much more successful.
As Good As Dead is published in the UK on November 19th 2015 by Bloomsbury. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this advance copy for review