#BookReview: The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse @d_whitehouse @EmmaFinnigan @PicadorBooks

The Long Forgotten Cover Image

About the Book

When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.

Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start my review by saying how beautiful the cover of The Long Forgotten is, it really is gorgeous. Initially I saw the flowers and was drawn to looking at it some more and then I noticed the white whale that comes to play a small but also huge part in the story. It feels like a work of art and the more you look at it the more you notice, and it all connects so beautifully with the novel you’re about to read.

This novel itself is incredible! I picked it up early in the evening and I read from start to finish without taking a break because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about this book is incredible – the writing, the plot, the characters and it’s one that I know will stay with me.

The Long Forgotten is a novel about memories but it is also a quirky, mystery novel that will have you completely and utterly engrossed. The novel is told in two time strands. In one there is Dove who is a lonely man who one day starts remembering things that he knows never happened to him. This leads him to try and find out where these memories are from. In the other there is Peter who also seems lonely until one day he finds a love letter in a botany book at the library and it leads him on a quest to travel and find the flowers mentioned.

The Long Forgotten found me at just the right time. I’ve been having a big clear out in my home and have been pondering whether if I get rid of certain items I might end up forgetting the memories attached to them. So a novel all about memories and how we remember, how things become fixed in our memory really captured my imagination. This book explores the fallibility of memory too. When Dove firsts experiences the strange memories he seems to just know that they’re not his memories, but how? It’s as if somewhere in us we know when something is not our memory but at the same time are so prone to forgetting events from our own lives. Where do the lost memories go? Is someone else remembering them, or their own version of them? It felt at times that even though the plane crash that this book is hinged on was real within the novel that it was also a metaphor for how memories can just disappear and seemingly be gone forever.

I knew I would love the story around memory as soon as I read the synopsis for this book but I didn’t expect to love the exploration around the flowers and plants as much as I did. It was fascinating to read about these extremely rare plants, most of which I’d never heard of before, and to be with Peter on his journey to locate them all and to see them in the flesh. His story had echoes of Dove’s where Peter’s friend Hens, who encourages him to go find the plants, ends up stealing stories from him in order to attract women. This left me wondering about how some people do steal stories from others in order to make themselves seem more interesting, but how sometimes things we think about can become blurred in our own minds to the point that it’s possible to not immediately remember that a story isn’t yours, that it actually happened to someone else. I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling a story of mine to me and genuinely thinking it was theirs and it was such a weird situation. I definitely felt an echo of this within The Long Forgotten.

This novel is full of strange connections and unexpected coincidences, which make it very quirky, yet it always felt believable. At times it was almost surreal in how the dots joined together but there was such heart throughout the novel that it was wonderful to turn the final page and see how it was all so skilfully woven together (even though getting to the end of the book did leave me feeling bereft at finishing it).

The Long Forgotten is a very quirky, incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful novel that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished reading it. I know it’s one I won’t forget and even though it’s only March I feel absolutely certain that this will be in my top books of 2018! I urge you to go buy a copy and read it right away, you absolutely won’t regret it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, Emma Finnigan and Picador for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Long Forgotten is out now and available in hardback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

David Whitehouse Author Picture

I have written three novels. The first, BED, was published in 2011 by Canongate in the UK and Scribner in the US.  It won The Betty Trask Prize 2012. The movie rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Film 4.

The second, MOBILE LIBRARY, was published in January 2015 by Picador in the UK and Scribner in the US. It won the Jerwood Fiction Prize 2015 and the TV rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Channel 4.

The third, THE LONG FORGOTTEN, will be published by Picador in March 2018.

I currently have a number of TV projects in development.

I have written for lots of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Esquire, The Times, The Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Style and many more. I’ve won awards for journalism from The Times, The Evening Standard, the PPA and the PTC. I am the Editor-at-Large of ShortList magazine.

(Bio taken from: DavidWhitehouse.com)

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

The Long Forgotten Blog Tour Poster

Advertisements

#BookReview: Little Deaths by Emma Flint @picadorbooks ‏@flint_writes

little-deaths-emma-flint

About the Book

It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone—a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress—wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman—and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance—or is there something more sinister at play?

My Thoughts

I was approved to read this book from NetGalley back in January and I read it soon after but life got in the way of me getting my review written in a timely manner. I’m now quite pleased about that as I’ve had time to really think about the book and I can honestly say that it has stayed with me so strongly.

Little Deaths is a claustrophobic read; it’s set in a hot summer in 1965 and the heat feels stifling as it emanates from the page. There is a sense that the heat is intensifying the way everyone behaves.

Ruth is a fascinating character; I was intrigued by her and interested in her all the way through the novel. It was shocking to see how quick everyone was to judge that she likely murdered her two children entirely based on her looks and the fact that she was a single mother, but then it seems that all women are judged harshly, and so often it’s by other women and their peers. Ruth is a very glamorous woman and she enjoys going out dancing, but her outer appearance belies how she really feels. Ruth is uncomfortable in her own skin. She has an almost fear of any kind of bodily function – she panics when she feels herself begin to perspire and her mind obsesses about people noticing. She puts on her make up in a fastidious fashion – she cannot bear to be seen without it, even on the morning she finds her children missing. Society judges that she is vain and cold, but actually her make up is her mask – she needs it on in order to face the world, in order to cope. It is so easy for society to make judgements but people are far more complex than what we can see on the outside. For me, Ruth wanting to paint her face was her way of holding herself together when her life was spiralling out of control.

The way men see Ruth throughout this novel is also really fascinating. The police seem keen to see her as a scarlet woman and therefore someone who would likely have hurt her children, believing that she would kill them because they held her back from the lifestyle she wanted to be living. Then there is Pete, the young journalist, who quickly becomes fixated with Ruth and therefore believes she must be innocent. He imprints his own beliefs about Ruth onto her and begins to believe that he knows how she’s feeling. There doesn’t seem to be a man in this novel that can see Ruth as she really is – an independent woman who is doing her best in difficult circumstances. Even her estranged husband Frank cannot, or perhaps will not, see that Ruth is actually vulnerable and fragile, and that her wanting to look nice all the time is part of her defence mechanism.

Although we, as readers, are seeing a lot of the story through Ruth’s eyes we still can’t be sure that she is innocent. She maintains that she didn’t harm her children or take them out of the apartment, and she that worries people are thinking that she did. I thought she was most likely telling the truth but I couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t suffering from a breakdown of some kind and that she believed she hadn’t done it when really she might have done.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a crime or thriller novel before that has made me tearful. As this novel went on I felt more and more sad for Ruth. There is a moment when she feels a compulsion to buy a new dress and the way she is torn to shreds in the media for that one act made me want to weep for her. It was so apparent to me that she just wanted to look nice one more time for her babies, she wasn’t aware of it seeming inappropriate, she was just compelled to do it for them, and as a way of holding herself together. This makes sense knowing what we know about Ruth but the things that were said about her afterwards made my heart break.

I actually didn’t know when I was reading this novel that it was based on a true story, so when I read this at the end of the book I was horrified all over again at what society is capable of doing to women in the way we judge. There are still so many cases, particularly when a crime is committed, where society leaps to a judgement based on how the woman looks in a way that we don’t do with men. It’s sobering to think that what happened to Ruth, or Alice Crimmins, the woman she is based on, is still happening now.

This book had me completely and utterly engrossed all the way through, I begrudged real life interrupting my reading time.

Little Deaths is a stunning literary thriller and I highly recommend it. I read this novel back in January and it has stayed with me all these months and I feel sure it will still be in my top books of the year when I come to compile that list in December.

I received a copy of Little Deaths from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

emma flint

Emma Flint grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, and has been writing fiction since she knew what stories were. She graduated from the University of St. Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, later completing a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She worked in Edinburgh for four years, and now lives in north London.

Since childhood, she has been drawn to true-crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases. She is equally fascinated by notorious historical figures and by unorthodox women – past, present and fictional.

All of these themes informed and inspired Little Deaths, a heady blend of sex, murder, obsession, noir and a femme fatale. Set in 1960s suburban New York, the novel re-tells a horrifying true story with a modern feminist slant.

(Bio taken from EmmaFlint.com)