You know how sometimes you start a book and you just can’t put it down – that’s what happened when I started reading Claire Kendal’s debut novel The Book of You. I mean, it’s not an original story – woman sleeps with guy after a bad break up and guy turns out to be a psychopathic stalker – but Kendal’s novel had an extra layer of creep, plus some interesting things to say about victim-blaming.
Thirty-eight-year-old Clarissa works as an administrator at the university in Bath. Her affair with Henry, a professor, has recently ended. Rafe also works at the university and has just published a new book on fairy tales and it is at his book launch that Clarissa drinks too much. She hadn’t really wanted to go, but he’d sent her three invitations. Hello, alarm bells.
“It is the night that I make the very big mistake of sleeping with you,” she writes in her journal. She has decided to follow the advice from the literature on stalkers and document everything. Clarissa knows she has to build a case before she can even consider going to the police.
I am trying to piece it all together. I am trying to fill in the gaps. I am trying to recollect the things you did before this morning, when I started to record it all. I don’t want to miss out a single bit of evidence – I can’t afford to. But doing this forces me to relive it. Doing this keeps you with me, which is exactly where I don’t want to be.
Everything about Rafe is skin-crawlingly-creepy.
“It makes me want to scream, the way you say my name all the time,” Clarissa writes. And Rafe has plenty of opportunities to say it. He is everywhere: outside her apartment, lurking at train stations, waiting for her outside the court room where she is on jury duty. He sends her things: chocolates, notes, flowers. He calls and texts her dozens of times. He rallies her friends against her, isolates her further. He makes Clarissa question her own sanity.
If there is a bright spot in Clarissa’s day, it is the time she spends in court, listening to the rather horrific details of a violent drug-related rape. It is here where she meets fellow-juror, Robert, a firefighter who recently lost his wife. As she and Robert become closer, Rafe becomes more aggressive.
The Book of You is an edge-of-your-seat thriller which also happens to be well-written. Clarissa refuses to let herself be a victim, but she is human and doesn’t always make the right choices. I never once thought “What?! Don’t do that!” though – which is certainly due to Kendal’s skill.
It’s a bit graphic, so if that’s not your thing perhaps this isn’t the book for you. However, I couldn’t put it down and highly recommend it.