Where does imagination stop and reality kick in? How blurred are the lines between fact and fiction? How closely does art sometimes imitate life…..?
I’m asking myself all these linked questions a few minutes after turning the final emotional page of Sarah Stovell‘s striking debut novel, the psychological thriller Exquisite, published by Orenda Books.
“Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…
Or does it?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.”
Bo and Alice embark on a passionate affair that threatens to undermine the outwardly stable family life Bo has established in idyllic Grasmere. But do they both have the same perceptions of their relationship…and is one more damaged and needy than the other?
Author Sarah Stovell lives in Northumberland, where successful author Bo leads the Creative Writing retreat and first meets damaged and vulnerable Alice, herself an aspiring writer. Sarah is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Bo was born in 1977, just like Sarah….
I enjoyed Exquisite. The juxtaposition between Alice’s chaotic life in bohemian Brighton and the calm family existence led by Bo in the beautiful Lake District is stark, but ultimately deceptive. The way the story is told separately through the eyes of both Bo and Sarah, from the initial mutual passion to eventual destruction, is skilful and deeply engaging.
Alice’s own debut novel was about her all-consuming relationship with Bo.
I wonder what Sarah’s next will be about….