BOOK REVIEW: EMMA HEALEY – WHISTLE IN THE DARK

*Just a little note: this review may contain spoilers*

I saw this book when I was in Cardiff in WhSmith. I have seen the book going around on social media and it really intrigued me. I took it from the shelf and held it in my hands and immediately fell in love with it. It’s a small book that fits perfect in your hands, it feels like a special book, something that you want to keep perfect. And, of course, the cover is gorgeous. The cover really draws you in and is a great visual representation of the overall book.

So, what’s it about? This is what the blurb says:

Jen is at her wit’s end. Her fifteen-year-old daughter has just been found after going missing: four days lost and alone in the desolate countryside. Lana won’t talk about it. The police think the case is closed. But Jen can’t leave it alone. Lana is acting strangely: she stops going to school, she sleeps with the
light on. With her daughter increasingly becoming a stranger,
Jen is sure the answer lies in those four missing days.
But will Lana ever reveal what happened?

At first, it took me a while to get into it, I think this is because I was thinking too much about it and worrying that I had to concentrate on every word. I feel that this is a book that isn’t easy to talk about to people without talking about the overall book, which might sound a bit pointless writing a review about it, but I do think that. It’s a book that will have people talking and thinking about the story in different ways. What I found refreshing in this book is the structure of the book. There are no chapters. There are sections with different titles which makes the book harder to get into but it also makes you more interested in the story.

At the heart of the story isn’t a big thrilling mystery or a crime, it’s the relationship between mother and daughter that is the beating heart of the book. Healey writes such beautiful, three-dimensional characters. The writing of Jen and Lana is beautifully written. For me, the character of Lana was the best written, she has the most characterisation around her. I felt that it took me a while to picture Jen as a character unlike the other characters. The theme of motherhood is a big theme that runs throughout the book. From Jen and Laura, to Meg being pregnant, to Jen and her mother, it’s a big feature of the book. Even Mother Nature. The book talks about the social expectations of a mother. The relationship between Jen and Lana is emotional and you want them to reconnect, for them to understand each other. It really is emotional and feels very real and human.

I loved the family dynamic of the characters: Jen, Lana, Hugh and Meg. It felt like a real family dynamic and I could see them at the dining table, in the living room, and going through their life. Hugh was one of my favourite characters. I found Hugh interesting, I liked his dry sense of humour and I liked how much of a calming presence he is. I couldn’t help picturing Mark Bonnar as Hugh and if it gets made into a TV series, I hope he plays him. This would be a beautiful television series about family dynamics.

The book covers a lot of themes including mental health, nature (and the consequences of it), hints of the supernatural and a big theme that runs throughout is the theme of religion. The themes make the book an interesting read and the writing is descriptive, dark, assertive and beautiful. I really loved this passage in the book:

Flutter
My body feels like it’s made up of a thousand tiny birds flapping their wings inside my skin: a blue tit at my elbow, a sparrow along my thigh, a pigeon jabbing me in the belly button. I can hardly walk, I can hardly hold myself up, without the exhausting tickling of their feathers. The ticklishness is what makes me scratch at myself, with fingernails and pens and scalpels.
Sometimes, when I see a bird in the garden or a park, I expect it to fly right into me, so I’d rather not go outside.
Sometimes, I don’t dare move my head, or speak out loud, in case I cause a whirlwind of wings and claws inside me.
Sometimes, questions flutter from their beaks: What is the point, they say, how long will this go on? Can you stand it for many more years, or months, or days? Where can you escape to? When will it all end?
Sometimes, I think of ways to get rid of the birds, to poison them, to fall from a great height and feel them rush out of me.
Sometimes, I wish someone would crush them out of me.

Healey really draws you in, makes you care about the characters, makes you care about the story. I did feel the ending was just slightly rushed, but overall, I was satisfied with the ending, and I found it quite emotional.

It’s a story about family dynamics, what happens when a missing child returns home back into that family dynamic. It’s about a mother and daughter relationship, it’s about the force of nature, about the darkness in our minds. It’s a beautiful hardback with a gorgeous cover that really draws you in. It’s a book that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Have you read Whistle in the Dark yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks,

Corey.

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