Strengths: Did have that chilling thriller feel at times.
Weaknesses: The blurb on the back didn’t really match the book in my opinion.
Why I read it: On the new releases table at Kinokuniya Singapore.
Setting: London, 1940s and 1970s
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
I spotted this book in Kinokuniya one Saturday morning, complete with a sticker that said, ‘If you like Sophie Hannah’ (I do – a lot), ‘you’ll love Carol Topolski’. Generally I am somewhat suspicious of these stickers, but my holiday must have relaxed me so I turned to the back cover to read what it was about. It appeared to be about three doctors – Virginia, who has a secret about knives; Faisal, who has been a traitor to someone else and Gilda, who sounds fun-loving but has a secret involving rubber. (Particularly intrigued about this last one, as even Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t get kinky and secretive with rubber).
Again, maybe it was the lazy mood of vacationing, but this book is quite different to what I thought. Virginia is a highly renowned surgeon and Faisal has managed to get a job in her ‘firm’ (or ‘team’ as we call it down here) as a senior registrar (more senior doctor). Gilda is a beautician who becomes a friend of Virginia’s after collapsing on the street. The last two characters are more minor in comparison to Virginia. We travel back and forth between time periods relating to Virginia’s youth (World War II, her mother having an affair) before returning to the present day. We also meet Ruby, Virginia’s companion.
I don’t credit myself as being a sleuth, but I worked out very quickly who Ruby was and what her role was. It made the finale less shocking for me as I’d guessed that Ruby would start expressing her opinions more. I would have liked more about Faisal and his guilt at leaving his country in addition to how he ‘dobbed in’ the guilty person. I’m not entirely sure why Gilda was mentioned on the back cover, as she’s a much more minor character. She does have a small role in trying to bring Virginia out and accept herself and an interesting back story.
The narrative also jumps around between past and present and different characters. Occasionally it can be difficult to remember where each person was at when we met them last and I think some of the tension is lost. Towards the end, the book does become more of a thriller as the pieces are joined together but it’s somewhat slow going at the start. Each piece is interesting (a whole book could be written on Virginia’s mother!) and well written but occasionally I was left unsatisfied.
I believe that Topolski’s first novel, Monster Love, is very highly regarded. I know that I can be sometimes critical of medical stories (although I didn’t find any fault with the medicine in this book – well done on great researcher) so I think I’ll try this novel before saying this author is not for me.