Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Random House UK, Cornerstone| 6 August 2020|407 pages| Kindle review copy via NetGalley

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors and yet I struggled to read Invisible Girl. I struggled to get interested in it at first and at about 25% I nearly gave up. But I can’t give up on a book by a favourite author, so I carried on.

The book description below is what made me want to read it:

It is nearly midnight, and very cold. Yet in this dark place of long grass and tall trees where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is waiting…

When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart.

Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s thirty-three years old and he’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares about him. But when Saffyre Maddox disappears from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. Because he’s just the type, isn’t he? A bit creepy?

I struggled because it is slow-going, the narrative jumps around between Saffyre, Owen and Cate (the long suffering wife of Roan, a child psychologist) and also between the present and the past tenses. I was never really sure where the story was going.

The blurb tells you the the bare bones of the plot. It’s a mystery revolving around secrets – what was the terrible thing that happened to Saffyre, what are the characters hiding, why does everybody shun Owen and are they all unreliable narrators? I was never really sure and didn’t trust any of them. It certainly doesn’t hold back on some of the most unsavoury aspects of life – sexual harassment, abuse, self-harm, in-celibates, on-line forums and so on. It’s the slow pace that made it drag for me and lessened any sense of tension about what was going to happen. All is explained by the end – apart, that is, from one final thread that is left hanging.

Lisa Jewell’s Acknowledgements are interesting, in that she explains how she writes. Until she has finished a book she writes it is ‘just me and my (three) typing fingers and my weird imaginary world.’ She doesn’t do research because it puts her off her stride and she doesn’t like editorial input when she is writing. But when she has finished then, as she describes it, all these magical people appear and fix her imaginary world. Of course, then she thanks all those people, her editors, sales and marketing and publicity teams.

Her methods have worked enormously well in all the other books of hers that I’ve read and I’ve been enthralled, mystified and captivated by them – but just not this one, I’m sorry to say.

My thanks to the publishers and to NetGalley for my copy and I wish I could have been more engaged and enthusiastic about this book.

2 thoughts on “Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell”

  1. Sorry to hear this one didn’t draw you in more, Margaret. That blurb is appealing, and I can see how it would make you want to read the book. The characters sound interesting, too, but sometimes that’s just not enough. I have to say I agree with you about a story that goes back and forth between past and present tense – I don’t generally go for that myself. Thanks for your candor.

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