Two women are involved in a car crash on a foggy highway and one dies. She leaves behind a devastated husband (Charlie) and a young son (Sam), the latter having been in the car with her. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces - not just for herself but for those who have been left behind. Charlie can't understand why April, his now late wife, came to be involved in an accident on a highway hours from home. Can he unpick the pieces to find out why? How will young Sam cope without his mother?
I ordered this book after seeing some very enthusiastic reviews about it and these, added to the positive praise on the cover itself, made me very excited to read it. I wasn't disappointed. It's impossible not to feel a good deal of sympathy for the main characters. Because the accident happens near the start and April obviously dies, we don't get to know her as a character except through the eyes of her family. For Isabelle and the other two main characters of Charlie and Sam, the nightmare is only just beginning.
Isabelle is understandably horrified by events. She may have walked away from the smash but as the survivor, she finds herself cast as the villain, especially given that April had a family. I couldn't help but warm to her character. It's such as unfortunate situation and she goes through a huge range of emotions in her attempts to deal with the aftermath. Sam and Charlie are lost with April but for Charlie, there is a whole lot of mystery also going on. Where was April headed that day? What was going on that he didn't know about? It's a small town and their lives end up becoming entwined. Can Charlie ever forgive Isabelle for what he feels was her fault?
It's not an easy read but it is strangely riveting. I kept wanting to read on as I was absorbed in the characters and also what April's secret would turn out to be. I'd thoroughly recommend this book as it totally absorbed me. It feels like you're going on a journey with the characters so expect to be sucked into their emotions as you read.
Two cars collide on a foggy highway, and a woman dies. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these three lives intersect, questions arise: How well do we really know those we love-and how do we forgive the unforgivable?
I have to admit that while I was originally attracted to this book because of the synopsis and how intriguing it sounded, I have to confess that I did choose to pick it up and read it because of the cover. Allen and Unwin's UK paperback is simply stunning, a gorgeous image with purple foil highlights and I just couldn't believe how lovely it was. I was really pleased about the fact there was something on the cover that said fans of Jodi Picoult would enjoy this book, and since I am a big fan of Picoult, I was therefore sure I would enjoy this one. I didn't expect that when I picked it up I would be consumed by it and desperate to read at every single opportunity I got to read a few pages. This book is wonderful, and here's why you should read it.
This book doesn't have just one main character, it has 3. Firstly, there is Isabelle, the lady who is the awful position of having run over and killed April, a woman who stopped in the middle of an impossibly foggy highway one morning. Second and third, we have Charlie and Sam, respectively April's widower and son, who are struggling to deal with their loss and not dealing with it especially well. The book begins with April deciding to run away, although we aren't told why, and proceeds to the awful car crash. This is well handled by Leavitt, and made for quite odd reading - you know what's coming and don't want to read too much, but at the same time, you simply have to know what's going to happen next. Leavitt really manages to set the scene so well, describing the setting, the mood, the characters so well that you can't help but love every word that's being written.
Firstly, I really felt for the character of Isabelle. She has killed someone accidentally, but of course is haunted by her actions, and repeatedly wonders what she could have done differently to avoid what had happened. You can feel her pain through Leavitt's writing, she really puts poor old Isabelle through the wringer yet it's completely believable. I did find her slight obsession with Charlie and especially Sam a little disconcerting because it seemed a bit odd, and I found it a little awkward at times, but as it progressed, it seemed to somehow make sense and was so well done by Leavitt. I just really liked Isabelle, and how she did eventually begin to realise the importance of life and putting herself first.
Secondly, we have Sam and Charlie. It was horrible to read their pain, especially Sam's, who just wants his mum. Charlie also seems bereft by the loss of his beloved wife, and the pair are clearly completely ruined over her death, and the secrets that are eventually revealed in time too. I really liked that Leavitt made Sam his own character, introducing a quite fascinating hobby for such a young boy, photography, and I think that added a new dimension to him and the story. Charlie was also a really well written character, well developed in terms of being a widower, a father and someone struggling with life as it is at the moment. You feel desperately sorry for him because of his situation, and due to that, we are all sympathetic readers, and care about the characters within.
It isn't an easy book to read by any stretch of the imagination. It deals with hard themes - death and loss, grief and pain, and all of these are of course emotive topics. However, if you go into the book expecting this, then you're just going to enjoy the read and what Leavitt has dished up for you. I found her writing was what really drew me in - she was so descriptive without being heavy, she writes easily across each of the three characters, and allows the story to jump between them with ease as well. I found myself utterly consumed by this read, and really didn't want to put it down. Yes, I shed some tears, yes it wasn't easy to read at times but it was worth it when I reached the end, because I felt like I had been on a journey with this book. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who loves a really good story that is well written and really draws you in - you won't go far wrong with Pictures of You.
ISBN: 978-1742377179. Published by Allen & Unwin on 1st August 2011. Pages: 348. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com.
Thank you for reading.
Please note the hideous cover pictured on Dooyoo is NOT the UK cover of the book, and NOT the one mentioned in my review.
Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these three lives intersect, the book asks, How well do we really know those we love--and how do we forgive the unforgivable?
I first heard about Caroine Leavitt's latest novel Pictures of You when Danielle posted about it on the site. I was immediately taken in by the book cover, which shows a camera floating in the sky, with angel's wings attached. It was mesmerising, and is one of the most beautiful book covers I think I've ever seen. I added it to my mental wish-list, it's a long list (believe me) so when I bought myself an Amazon Kindle, I browsed on the Kindle store and came across Pictures of You for only 5Euro so I did what any book addict would do: I bought myself the novel. After reading the first two Stephanie Plum novels I was looking for something a bit meatier and plumped for this one and I don't regret it for a second.
Pictures of You is the kind of novel you wish you'd written. Well, I wish I'd written it anyway because it's beautiful. I don't think I will read a better written novel, because the language and the flow of the words was just stunning. The plot is also incredibly brilliant. It's the kind of plot where you can easily imagine yourself in the same situation. I kept thinking, how would I feel in Isabelle's shoes? It asks a lot of questions of the reader, that's for sure. I do feel that anything I say about the book won't do it justice. It's the type of book you just have to read, it's the type of book you have to read to truly understand why I loved it so much. To see for yourself the cleverness of the plot, the brilliance of the writing. It's so much more than just a novel. Pictures of You makes you question yourself, it makes you question what the characters are seeing, hearing, believing. I promise you, this book will stay with me long after I've finished reading it. Photography plays a huge part in the novel, with Isabelle being a photographer and I could sense just how much photography meant to Isabelle and to Sam, who picks up photography as a hobby. It's threaded through the entire novel and it made me want to go out and buy a film camera, to see what Charlie and Isabelle see every time they lift their eyes to the lens to take a picture.
I love that the synopsis of the book is so short, and doesn't give away much detail because to write a synopsis for the book would take a long time to craft perfectly because you want people to be enticed by the story, you don't want to give it all away before they've even flicked to the first page. And the synopsis for Pictures of You entices you in nicely. Why was April in the middle of the road the day Isabelle drove into her? Why was she three hours away from her home in the Cape Cod. I was desperate to find out, but even more than that, I was desperate to learn more about Isabelle because, after all, she killed a person, but it wasn't her fault. How does a person deal with something like that? How do you get over the fact you killed somebody? Throw in April's husband Charlie and son Sam and you have a brilliant full-circle story, as Isabelle finds herself drawn to Charlie and, more so, to Sam. It seemed wrong but it also seemed so, so right. There are so many emotions swirling through the book; you're shocked by April's death, you're saddened for Isabelle, Charlie and Sam, you're intrigued as to why April was there. I felt happy, sad, angry, I felt tons of emotions while reading this book.
I found myself really taken in with all of the characters. With Isabelle, Charlie, Sam, even April despite the fact she dies at the beginning of the book. These characters found their way into my heart, long before I'd finished the book. They're written so vividly, that they really do come to life off the pages. I could see Isabelle, with her long, dark, curly hair and I could feel her sadness over April and her sadness over what drove her to that road in the first place, the break-up of her marriage. I could feel the deep grief Charlie and Sam feel, but I could also feel the hope Sam has to hear from his mother again and it killed me that he wouldn't acknowledge his mother's death. The way Sam and Charlie mesh together after April's death was heart-warming, it really was. Charlie could have easily gone to pieces and though he did in private, whenever Sam was around he did his best to take his and his son's mind off the tragedy. But what I loved most was the relationship between Isabelle and Sam. It's bittersweet, but hopeful.
Pictures of You took my by surprise. It blew me away, there's no doubt of that but even though the book didn't end how I expected it to, it just made me love it even more. Because it wasn't happy ever after. It was real. I thought Caroline Leavitt made a big, brave step with how she took things between Isabelle, Sam and Charlie. I was heart-broken, but it was right. Pictures of You is a truly special novel. It's written so perfectly that at times I just didn't want to put it down and I could have happily stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning to finish it. The writing style was so absorbing, leaving me wanting more, craving more. The way the story switches between Isabelle, Charlie and Sam is perfect, allowing us to see the twists and turns how they themselves see it. This is a book everybody should read, I don't gush about books lightly any more, but Pictures of You blew me away from page one. It's worth your time and it's worth your money. The story is absorbing the writing is stunning and it's such a well-rounded novel that I found no faults with the book. It was perfect. And it's rare you can say that about a novel.