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Book Review: Apple Tree Yard - Louise Doughty

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Title: Apple Tree Yard
Author: Louise Doughty
Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main - TV Tie In edition (5 January 2017)
Genre: Crime, Thriller & Mystery
Price: Rs. 142 on Amazon
Pages: 448

I heard of this book thanks to social media. A couple of friends had highly recommended this book and that was reason enough for me to pick it up. The blurb sounded really interesting and I was looking forward to dig in to this psychological thriller.

Yvonne Carmichael is middle-aged, a distinguished geneticist, and married to a nice guy called Guy and has two children. She's successful and loves her job and her family. One day, Yvonne meets a stranger near her workplace and she ends up having sex with him in a public place. Thus begins a long time affair where the thrill for both involved is having sex in public places like the restroom of a cafe, a deserted chapel and sometimes in empty alleys. One such place is Apple Tree Yard. Everything seems to be working well for Yvonne, her husband has no clue about the affair, her job is going great and her sex life has found new vigor thanks to her liaisons with a stranger. This man in question, doesn't talk much about himself or his life, while Yvonne seems to share all the details of her life with him. The man is so secretive, that he's unnamed for more than half of the book.

Soon, tragedy strikes and Yvonne struggles to cope up with the circumstances that follow. Battered and bruised, Yvonne reaches out to her lover for help. He does help in his own way. Just as she's struggling to come to terms with it, Yvonne finds herself in a courtroom charged with murder as an accomplice with this very man. Their affair has remained a secret until now and under no circumstance does Yvonne want it to be revealed in court. She trusts the man to not talk about it as he's married too, but will he keep up his end of the bargain?

First things first, this book has some of the best writing I have ever seen. The language used is fabulous and the flow of the story is brilliant. Toggling between the past and the present, the author manages to keep the reader hooked to every word. The writing pierces through you with its potency and thrills you to the bone. The author uses carefully and beautifully woven phrases to convey emotions as well as describe situations. Every liaison between Yvonne and her lover is described with vivid detail. Full marks to the author for story telling!

As a character Yvonne Carmichael is not someone I could relate to in any way. This is not to say that I did not like her, I did to a certain extent. But the thought of why would a successful woman who is smart, polished and intelligent succumb to the charms of a stranger risking everything that she had built all these years, never left my mind. I know that the author's intention is to show that no matter how successful, individuals are complex and fallible, but somehow it still did not agree with me. Also, what was the need for the man to be unnamed for more than half of the book I do not understand. Yes, this does build up a certain level of suspense where one might think that the man could be any character already introduced in the book, but, the story works very well to prove the opposite. So, what was the need to keep a protagonist unnamed?

The man in question (yes I choose to not name him too, just so that when you read the book, it will come in as a surprise), is charismatic and suave and he knows it very well. When a woman he's just met for the first time, has sex with him without uttering a word and continues to be a part of his public adventures, he is bound to feel powerful. That is exactly how he is. He chooses when to call/talk to her. He decides when they meet and where. He's the one who assures her that no one is watching them when they get frisky at Apple Tree Yard. But for now, sitting opposite each other in the courtroom, this one encounter and its revelation can change the course of their lives forever. Who'll confess first?

This is a brilliantly written book that tries its best to do justice to a pretty strong story. Yes, the story does seem too far-fetched at times, but when you put that aside, you are privy to a story that shows the eccentricities and foibles of human nature. I would not necessarily put this in the genre of psychological thrillers, but it sure does have its own moments of thrill. The ending doesn't come in as a surprise, it is almost like you knew what would happen all along, and yet, you chose to read every word in every page to get there. This is the beauty of Louise Doughty's writing.

Verdict: Not exactly a psychological thriller, but do read it for excellent writing and a tight story. This book also goes on to show how one impulsive decision can make or break a life and the ones of those around.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. The starting of the story felt like the movie, 'Unfaithful', where Richard Gere's wife has an affair with a stranger. Yeah, it is a mystery why women --esp successful, smart women-- do that. But, as you said, humans are a strange species and we know not what goes on in their psyche! Would love to read this book, so adding it to my TBR.
    Thanks, Soumya! <3

    1. It did feel a lot like 'Unfaithful', I agree. Now that I think of it, pretty much the exact same story line minus a few twists :)

      Do read this one.

  2. Thanks for sharing this lovely review, Soumya. I'm not into thrillers that much but your writeup did make me sit up and make a note of the title. It will be on my TBR for sure.

    1. Do give this a chance, Esha. Thanks for reading.

  3. This does sound like a good concept... definitely will check it out. Am on the lookout for a few good psychological thrillers to read... finished my old quota

  4. I am intrigued!! Going to get this one for sure. I really really want to know how the story plays out. And since you said the writing is excellent, I will go for it :)

  5. Yep it sounds like Unfaithful. I like psychological thrillers, and I think I will enjoy this book. Thanks again for a wonderful review, Soumya.

  6. Sounds intriguing...I think it'll go on my TBR list


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