Book Review || HIM BY CLARE EMPSON

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‘You’re stuck there, aren’t you? Right at the end. And I wonder if it might help to go back to the beginning, to put everything in some kind of order.’

Catherine has witnessed something so traumatic that she can’t speak. Or won’t speak.The doctors say the only way forward is to look into her past.

Catherine needs to start with HIM .

Fifteen years ago she met Lucian at university and fell into a passionate love affair. They were meant to be together forever. But something happened. Something that destroyed them.

Catherine married someone else. Had two children. She moved on – or so she thought. Now Lucian is back, showing her how different life could have been.

But going back to the beginning won’t change the ending.
In fact, it might be the thing that finally breaks her…

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HIM 

by CLARE EMPSON

Published on August 23, 2018 by Orion Books

Genre: Crime Fiction

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Him by Clare Empson is an emotional story of love, obsession, and the weight of shame. Just as Catherine and Lucian were obsessed with each other so was I with Clare Empson’s writing. Imagine a rose bush creeping out of the pages, entwining itself around your fingers, your wrist, your arms, pricking you and looking ever so beautiful. That is what Clare Empson did with this book. Her writing kept me hooked to the pages as I read the story from different perspectives and timelines.

Catherine suffers from elective mutism owing to a trauma she recently experienced which acted as a tipping point to her mental health. Reading Catherine’s present day perspective made me feel claustrophobic and on edge. I couldn’t help getting entangled with Catherine’s emotions; this feeling of dread creeping over me as the story progressed. Catherine and Lucian’s obsession with each other reminded me a little of Cathy and Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

While I do pity the characters, I can’t say that I liked them. Lucian is a rich heir, and painter who is one of the top elites. He and his four friends live a life of privileged luxury; however, their friend group is really nothing to admire. This is a group of people who never grew up; it’s not that they turn a blind eye to their faults but they actually enable the worst in each other. It took Lucian to find out about Catherine, and Alexa for him to actually see how Jack treats his wife? The careless nature of their lifestyle abetted in the loss of so many, and yet they never considered the consequences. Catherine, on the other hand, was a character I couldn’t help pity for her unhealthy obsession with Lucian. It was damaging to herself and her family.

I love how the author used this story as a means to examine guilt and its growth. It is shown as something that manifests in parasitic ways, unawares even to the victim themselves. This book is like an answer to the question, “Why didn’t they come out about it sooner?” Elective mutism is something new for me to read; Catherine’s thoughts during that time was incredibly sad and it really showed how shame burrows into one’s, and feeds on the person’s thoughts until it begins to affect one’s everyday.  

I liked how it delved into Catherine’s case of mutism and recognized her trauma for what it was. Him is a character driven book which explores the parallels of desire, and obsession, and the pervasiveness of shame. Although marketed as crime fiction, I felt the book was leaning more towards literary or contemporary fiction, and so I would recommend this book for readers who are looking for an emotionally dark and heartbreaking read.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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