After finishing two audiobooks last weekend, I decided to keep the good times rolling and listen to another one during the week. As I mentioned in my Sunday Rundown yesterday, I still haven’t been able to pick up a physical book so I decided to keep going with audiobooks. I’m hoping that it will stop me falling ina to a slump. The book I chose was something I bought ages ago on Audible. I imagine it was a deal of the day because it really isn’t my usual kind of book. I was intending to listen to it before I went to bed, on my commute, and on my lunch break at work. In the end, I listened to it for most of Tuesday as I got on with my jobs. I work in an office with 4 other people and it’s super quiet. Most of the time, we’re all just plugged into our music and getting on with stuff. I know it sounds really unsocial but it means we all just get on with things. There is still enough chat but it means we just do our individual thing. It also means that, on days when I don’t have as much writing to do, that I can listen to an audiobook. It’s quite effective.
He Said/She Said is a story about a single event and how it impacts on a young couple’s life Kit is an astrophysicist who chases solar eclipses. Since he saw his first one as a child. Kit had travelled the world to catch a glimpse of totality. At university, he meets and falls in love with Laura and, luckily for him, she is happy to follow him on these trips. At a festival to celebrate the eclipse, Laura witnesses something awful. What starts off as Laura and Kit doing their moral duty to help a young woman becomes something darker. When Beth turns up on their doorstep, she and Laura fall into an easy friendship. Although, it becomes apparent that Beth isn’t all that she’s been making herself out to be. When Laura and Kit find their lives in danger, will they be able to cut tie with their new companion?
Let me start by saying that I’ve read very few books that make the dual narrative work. It’s always an obvious sign that we’re being lied to on some level. The fact that the dual narratives in this book also skip back and forth between the past and the present just makes it even more annoying. It messes with the pace and it just an easy way for Kelly to drag out the inevitable reveal. I always find time jumps in these types of books to be an easy and lazy way for a writer to build tension. As if they didn’t know how to do it organically. It feels sloppy and it really does signpost the massive twit that will come at the end.
This is just another one of those contemporary thrillers that aren’t actually very thrilling. It becomes apparent very early on what Kelly is doing. We know bother narrators have their secrets and it’s not difficult to work out what they are. Kit’s reveal, in particular, is underwhelming and obvious. Kelly doesn’t even try to hide it and his behaviour throughout the novel highlight the thing he’s been keeping from us. I guess it doesn’t help that the twist is totally unoriginal and pretty boring. Although, the book itself clearly thinks it’s doing a great job of keeping you guessing. That’s the only reason that I can see for why it would keep dragging out the inevitable for so long.
If I hadn’t been listening to this at work, I’m not sure that I’d have finished the book properly. I’d most likely have skipped to the end, realised it was going where I thought it was, and skim read to the end. It has a very slow build-up and it feels very repetitive. Both narrators will talk about the same events one after the other before the same events are brought up time and again throughout the novel. Most of this novel feels like filler. The initial idea was interesting but it feels really thin. And then Kelly appears to have added extra twists on to pad it out even though they don’t make any sense.
For one thing, her characters are so one dimensional that making them suddenly do absolutely unexpected things just doesn’t work. You can’t write characters as black and white for 90% of the novel on to have them suddenly become grey. The characters aren’t developed as the novel progresses they just do random 180° turns when the plot needs them to. And then there are the supporting characters who are flimsy stereotypes for the entire book but are then referred to in passing as though we’re supposed to know anything about them.
On some level, I can appreciate what Kelly was trying to do here. I liked the idea of using the solar eclipse as a metaphor. The idea that something is always hidden, that somebody is always in the dark. It was an interesting idea but, unfortunately, it just didn’t come together. This book isn’t as good as wanted to be. It’s not as clever or meaningful as it thinks it is. It adds nothing to the dual narrative but, perhaps, actually succeeds it making it seem like a cheaper and even less worthwhile trope. He Said/She Said had the potential to be an interesting thriller but it wasn’t even given that chance. It’s lowest common denominator stuff. Not written to enthral but to sell. Just another in a long line of forgettable and regrettable thrillers.
2 thoughts on “Book Review – He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly”