If you asked me to name my favourite book of 2013, it would be Someone To Watch Over Me – the début novel from Madeleine Reiss. Winner of the UK People’s Novelist Awards 2011, this novel had me gripped from the start.
It is the night before Carrie opens her new shop, Trove and we learn that Carrie is feeling a “familiar sadness”. We’re immediately taken back some years earlier when Carrie and her family go to the beach to make the most of a perfect summer day.
Whilst enjoying their time on the beach, Carrie’s Son, Charlie spends some time with a young boy named Max. As the day goes on, Carrie drifts off to sleep and when she awakes, Charlie is nowhere to be seen.
We are then introduced to the boy Charlie met earlier, Max and his Mother, Molly. The two of them reside in their cosy Countryside home. Max’s Father, Rupert no longer lives with them but is making regular, silent phone calls to their house.
We return to the beach in the moments that follow the discovery that Charlie is missing, which are fast-paced and gripping and so well described that you become a part of the search for Charlie and you can feel every inch of panic along with his heartbroken parents. Charlie isn’t found and as darkness falls, Carrie and her Husband, Damian are forced to return home without him.
The story continues with the switching between the stories of the two families, and between the present and the past. Molly and Rupert are no longer together as Rupert has been violent towards Molly on many a past occasion. Carrie and Damian are also no longer together, unable to cope with the loss of their Son and with the uncertainty of what happened to him when he went missing. We are taken through Molly and Rupert’s brutal relationship with Molly’s efforts to cover up her Husband’s behaviour and her feelings of not being able to talk to anyone about what happened. The feelings of despair entwined within Carrie and Damian’s relationship are brought to the surface and we suffer their break up along with them.
Both of these ladies are now trying their best to move forward, to leave the scars of their pasts behind them. New homes, new friends and new relationships. Carrie’s journey to discover what happened to her Son and Molly’s efforts to protect both herself and Max from Rupert bring their two worlds together when suddenly, their paths cross once again and Max confides that he’s been talking to Charlie. Their estranged Husband’s reappear and both Carrie and Molly have to fight their pasts once more. Will they leave their pasts behind them and move on or will they find comfort in their history, with the Men they once loved?
Someone To Watch Over Me is a beautifully told story, Madeleine Reiss’ descriptions bring each environment and every moment to life. We are carried along the seasons by the decorating of Trove, we are introduced to some great secondary characters in Carrie’s friend and business partner, Jen, as well as her Mother and her neighbours (including the luscious Oliver) and we are encouraged to grasp every emotion going. This novel is tear-jerking, heart warming, funny, tense and full of anticipation. I could not put this book down, I was completely absorbed in the lives of these characters as well as the wonderfully described surroundings.
My Rating 5/5 ~ A beautifully told and magnificently described story of loss and pain and the struggle to leave the past behind, especially when it has a way of coming back to haunt you. Someone To Watch Over Me will have you gripped from the start. This book does not mess around and throws you straight in at the deep end and you work your way through with the characters, discovering more about them and experiencing moments with them along the way. A true contender for Book of the Year and one of the most powerful débuts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
Written by Melanie Clarke from Me, My Bookshelf and I.