I saw the hype on Twitter surrounding Allan’s new thriller in early December, and breathed a mini ‘ooooh’ when I saw the bright cover artwork. So inevitably when the Netgalley link appeared, I shot onto the site, pressed request, and hoped for the best. The blurb promised me a twisty psychological thriller, and Claire, you didn’t disappoint.
When a mysterious note arrives for seven months’ pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.
As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.
Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother.
Apple of my Eye had me gripped from the opening.. by the end of the Prologue (narrated by Louise), chills were going down my spine and I was ready for more:
“I deserved to be a mother. This woman, tired and worn out and miserable, didn’t.”
The book forms around three main characters – Eli (Eliana), Louise, and Angela. Eli is the main protagonist, expecting her first child with husband Martin, from who she has been growing apart due to creeping anxieties about his fidelity. Angela is Eli’s mother, who holds Eli’s hand through the difficult times. Louise is busy, apparently doing everything she can to tear the couple apart, and she has her eyes on Eli’s child.
She. Wants. Eli’s. Child. Absolute nightmare.
Claire’s use of imagery creates a sense of foreboding almost instantly, setting you up for the ride. For example, the rain-splattered bi-folding windows at the dream home create the idea that poor Eli is wide open and vulnerable, both physically and mentally. She’s inside her perfect glass box with her professional husband, a glass box which is smashed in an early chapter, when a note arrives – attached to a brick.
I love what I call ‘diary chapters’ – page-turning, Kindle-flicking, first-person narrative that drags you right into the psyche of the protagonists, leaving you to decide whether you’re with them or against them. The story jumps between the three characters, keeping the momentum up, but also leaving you going ‘but I want to know what she does!!!’ – but that’s a great thing!
There’s harassment, manipulation, and you’ll constantly be wondering how much more poor Eli can take. Each chapter is a build-up of events – harrowing messages, relationship crises, loyalties questioned, and a good few twists and red herrings along the way – the perfect recipe for a psychological thriller.
This thriller doesn’t just tickle you – it takes a cattle prod and it whacks you with that anxiety of not knowing what’s coming. This book exposes vulnerability, threatens every mother’s worst nightmare and keeps you hanging on until you go ‘what the….!!’
Does Louise get her hands on the child? Well I’m not going to tell you that am I…. I seriously recommend you pre-order the book and find out for yourself.
I seriously praise Claire for her sensitive handling of Louise’s psychosis and mental health in general in this book. Louise is suffering from psychotic delusions. She believes she is being instructed by God to act the way she does – this is one of the more common types of delusion. Her psychosis has been triggered by the trauma of not being able to carry a child of her own to full term.
“I told myself if I saw her again before the end of the week, it’d be a sign from God that I was right. This baby was the one I’d been waiting for.”
She convinces herself there is logic in her plan, because it is God’s plan. But you realise that her horrific experiences in her past have shaped her present, something we can perhaps understand. I actually came to sympathise a little with Louise, which I didn’t expect – I was calling her a ‘total b**ch’ by the end of the Prologue.
Verdict: 5 stars from me – a fantastic read, with plenty of twists, turns, questions and shocks to keep you on tenterhooks.
Before I wrote my review, I approached Claire to check I was right about Louise suffering from psychosis, and she kindly wrote back and agreed that I could quote the following feedback – thanks so much, Claire!
“I did write write Louise with psychosis in mind. She has been driven mad by her grief, especially the later term losses and this helps her justify her behaviour.
I was very aware of not sensationalising mental health difficulties, and I suppose that while Louise is clearly not in her right mind, I hope that I explained enough of her story that the reader will still feel sympathetic towards her.”
(Claire Allen, author)
Claire Allan is a USA Today bestselling author from Derry in Northern Ireland. A former journalist, she worked for the Derry Journal until making the leap into writing full time in 2016. Claire’s first eight novels, all women’s fiction, were published by Poolbeg Press in Ireland.
Her debut thriller, Her Name Was Rose, was published by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins in June of 2018. It has gone on to become an international bestseller, hitting the Kindle and Kobo charts in Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the UK and Ireland.
Her second thriller, Apple of My Eye, will be published in January 2019, with Forget Me Not to follow in May 2019.
She is a frequent contributor to television and radio as well as an experienced opinion columnist. Claire is also the mother to two children.
You can read more about Claire at www.claireallan.com
Or follow her on Twitter: @claireallan
Released 24 January 2019, from Avon Books. Available to pre-order now.