Thursday, 10 November 2011

Book review: Out of Sight

By Isabelle Grey
Published by Quercus

The book opens with the daily life of the Hinde household: Patrick, his wife Belinda and their little boy, Daniel. Their routine is somewhat disturbed by a visit of Patrick’s parents: anxious and fretful, they have the ability of pushing their son to the edge. They work him up in such a state that, after he says goodbye, Patrick is not quite himself as he drives to drop off Daniel at the childminder’s en route to his homeopathic clinic. In retrospect, Patrick won’t be able to say what happened. Except that it shouldn’t have happened.

Five years later, an Englishwoman working in a small French village comes across a fascinating man. He’s a homeopath from England but he goes under the name of Patrice. Taciturn and introvert, he leads a fairly solitary life. Leonie is instantly attracted to him and, guessing that his reticence must derive from a traumatic past, she is not put off by his unwillingness to talk about himself. Likewise, fascinated by her openness and vitality, Patrice seems to enjoy Leonie’s company. When Leonie gets pregnant, though, Patrick disappears without a trace.

What went on in Patrice’s mind to make him leave without a word of explanation? What past trauma can justify his attitude towards Leonie? What will she do without the man she loves? This and many other questions will be answered as, one piece at a time, the big picture takes shape and we learn about the consequences of that fateful ride with his son.

Out of Sight is Isabelle Grey’s debut novel and, possibly because she has extensive experience as a screenwriter, it is one that would translate incredibly well into a film. The dialogues are well-written and fast-flowing; settings and actions accurately described. The characters, with all their flaws and weaknesses, are totally credible, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are universally likeable.

Personally, I couldn’t warm to either Patrick/Patrice or Leonie. On one hand, I thought that - because of the trauma he experienced - he should have been able to treat Leonie better instead of acting in such a selfish way. Leonie, on the other hand, should have known that you can’t change people. She also clearly doesn’t believe in feminism as, most times, she seems to take the blame for each and every one of Patrice’s faults!

Far from being a negative point, my reaction to the main characters only shows that this novel - and the complex issues that it explores - is able to engage readers and stir up emotions. I can easily imagine that Out of Sight will become a favourite of book groups.


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If you missed my interview with Isabelle Grey, please follow this link.

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