Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Judas Scar - Amanda Jennings

About the book...
Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper. 

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving. 

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will's painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal.

About the author...
Amanda Jennings was born in London in 1973, and her family moved to a village in rural Berkshire when she was young. Unsure what career she wanted to pursue, she decided to follow in her architect mother’s footsteps and accepted a place to read architecture at Cambridge University, but it soon became clear it wasn’t for her and she changed course to History of Art – more writing, less physics! After university, she and a friend set up a company writing copy for small businesses, which paid just enough for rent and wine, but not quite enough for food. As fun as it was, a rethink was required when she fell pregnant. A few years later Amanda went to work at the BBC, but she missed looking after her daughter, and could no longer ignore her yearning to write. When she became pregnant with her second child, and encouraged by the success of a shortlisted sitcom script in a BBC writing competition, she took the opportunity to be at home with the children, grabbing every spare moment she could find to write. 

Sworn Secret, her first novel was published in the UK in August 2012 and in the US in February 2014. Her second book, The Judas Scar, will be published in May 2014.

Amanda lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and a varied menagerie. She is writing her third book and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Culture Club. In a parallel fantasy life she is an ex-downhill skier, turned Blue Peter presenter, turned battery chicken liberator.

My thoughts...
I was offered a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review or not.... She did warn me it was a bit dark - but, who doesn't like a bit dark?

The story centres around Will and Harmony a couple on the surface at least, very much in love but each, in different ways struggling to come to terms with a miscarriage.  This appears to be the catalyst for a string of events that cause their life to implode. Then enter Luke an enigmatic stranger that Harmony meets at a party - at this point it's very obvious there's trouble to come but nothing prepared me for how deep that trouble had and would run. 

Amanda displays the hurt and childhood scars that have shaped Will and Luke in particular. Thus highlighting how our childhood provides the foundations for us to grow into adults.  Not everyone has a solid, safe, loving and caring upbringing.  Some have a shakier start and it is past events that eventually cause the foundations of this triangle to crumble.

Public schooling and bullying all too often, sadly, go hand in hand and this story tackles this issue head on.  Amanda spares no punches and during the course of this book we bear witness to some strong emotions - bitterness, hate, revenge and hurt go hand in hand with self loathing, guilt and remorse. Above all this story highlights how events in our childhood if not dealt with follow us into adulthood and can have a huge impact upon the adults we become.

I read this book in one sitting, it really was compulsive reading - based on the subject matter I'm not sure what that says about me or Amanda really. I formed opinions about what and why things were happening but nothing prepared me for the strong emotions that were so at odds. Two totally different sets of emotions were evoked in me, I didn't always like them as adults and felt anger and hate towards them yet as children I just wanted to cry for them, sit holding and protecting them feeling love and pity. 

I highly recommend this book, it is compulsive reading so be prepared once you've read the first page you won't put it down until you've read the last. It left me thinking of many cliches 'what goes around comes around' being one of them.  Trust and loyalty when lost can have catastrophic consequences in any relationship. When I finished the book I did feel numb I had to 'hide under the duvet' whilst I analysed my feelings and emotions - a book that stays with you long after the final page is a joy to find.

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