Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (first published in 2017 by HarperCollins)
When I first received a press release about this book, I was immediately intrigued with the hashtag featured on the book. I mean, #WTFthatending is not exactly the kind of tag that you can ignore, right?
Of course, there was a cynical part of me that foolishly thought I’d come across most type of endings. Ha. This book would have the last laugh.
At first glance, Behind the Eyes is a psychological thriller with a premise that many of us have seen before.
Single mum and secretary to a psychiatrist David, Louise finds herself drawn into the lives of her boss and his wife, Adele.
On the surface, David and Adele are a couple who have it all. They’re both good-looking, wealthy and want for nothing. Yet, as Louise becomes more immersed in their world, she can’t help but wonder why David is so controlling and why Adele seems to be hiding secrets.
Most of all, she can’t help but wonder, why does Adele not want David to know about her friendship with Louise? As her friendship deepens with Adele and delves into something more with David, Louise soon finds herself caught up in a web that only becomes stickier the more she tries to get out of it.
And by the time she realises the truth, the consequences of her involvement with both of them will cost more than anyone could ever imagine.
Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes is the kind of book that’s hard to review, because it’s hard not to say anything about it without giving away spoilers. For all intents and purposes, I’ll do my best to be as vague as possible.
If someone had to ask me to describe the book, the best way I’d describe it is that it’s a genre-bending psychological thriller with a surprise element bordering somewhere between magic realism and the supernatural.
It’s a book, which I think, requires you to suspend a certain amount of disbelief in order to enjoy and fully appreciate the actual ending. That is as much of a hint as I can give you.
Pinborough is a masterful writer. The deceptively simple scenario she sets up for the reader is filled with sinister undertones that will cause anxiety in the reader from the very beginning. You’re left in no doubt that even without Louise’s presence in Adele and David’s lives that something about the couple’s relationship is completely off.
The way in which this is portrayed is a testament to Sarah’s writing. She scatters breadcrumb trails throughout the book, so that the impending sense of doom you feel is magnified tenfold.
Alternating between Louise and Adele’s point of view, we’re given glimpses of the lives of two very different women, although you’re not always sure whose version of events you should believe. There’s an element of gaslighting vs. crying wolf that comes into play and toys with your brain until you’re not sure who you should actually feel sympathy for.
Speaking of sympathy, with the exception of one character, most of the characters in this book will engender none.
I won’t highlight individual protagonist’s traits because that in itself would be a spoiler, but needless to say that the people you encounter in Behind Her Eyes are selfish, narcissistic and sociopathic (the last one at least applies to one of the characters).
If I can give you one hint about this book, then it would be to make sure to read the aspects that details events of the past. This is not a spoiler, because the end will definitely blindside you, but it does provide some interesting clues about the development of a particular character.
The end, when it eventually comes, is like being woken up from a deep sleep with a bucket of ice cold water.
I. did. not. see. THAT. coming.
It’s a few weeks later since I’ve read the book and I’m still not sure whether I’m impressed with the author’s metaphorical punch in my face or whether I’m enraged and indignant because I feel so deeply betrayed.
I think being impressed wins though. It’s not every day that a book takes you to a whole other level of shock. I was warned not to trust this book. I should have listened.
P.S. Shocking ending aside, I would desperately like to see a sequel. I want more than that ending.
Read more of Tammy’s reviews on her blog.
Purchase a copy of the book from Takealot.com.