Author: Lisa Jewell
Genres: Thriller/mystery/women’s lit
Publication date: 9 March 2017
Length: 448 pages
Available from: Amazon
‘How long have you been sitting out here?’
‘I got here yesterday.’
‘Where did you come from?’
‘I have no idea.’
Lily has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night, she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one.
Alice finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement, she invites him into her home.
But who is he, and how can she trust a man who has lost his memory?
Two women, twenty years of secrets and a man who can’t remember lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell’s brilliant new novel.
I’ve been reading Lisa Jewell books since Ralph’s Party (1999), and it’s been interesting to see her cover art transition from pastel, illustrated ‘chick lit’ (forgive the term) to more mature women’s fiction. Even more interesting is that I Found You was released in hardback last year with a women’s lit style cover (see the hardback edition at https://www.amazon.co.uk/I-Found-You-Lisa-Jewell/dp/1780893612/), but the newly released ebook and paperback versions have a cover that shouts ‘thriller’.
Is it a thriller? Is it women’s lit? The publisher leaves it to the reader to decide – but is evidently swaying toward thriller with the new cover.
I am not a fan of pigeon-holing a book, saying that it must be this or that, and what I really loved about I Found You is that the book is bigger than genre conventions, than attempts to write to formula. The book works as a story with heart, with likeable, true-to-life characters – but it also works as a gripping thriller that keeps you turning the pages (even long after you should have put the lights out and gone to sleep).
I admit it was the promise of mystery and thrill that attracted me to the book (thanks to the superbly crafted blurb), and the book certainly delivered. The backstory that slowly unfolds is dark and compelling, and the dual mysteries of who (who is the man on the beach, ‘Frank’?) and where (where has Alice’s husband gone?) kept me guessing for a good while. I was surprised to find that the author really had me convinced by her plot; usually, I am a little sceptical about stories relating to amnesia.
As I read, I was far more interested in the unravelling mystery than the characters’ development and a growing suggestion of romance, which I think was my reacting to the positioning of the book as a thriller – I read it from that angle. The result was that I was a little disappointed by the climax, in which all is revealed, because it lacks thrilling ‘get the bad guy’ action; for the main characters, the denouement is quiet. Necessarily quiet, though, I soon realised, because of the heart in this book, the emotion of the main characters, which takes centre stage.
There’s chilling darkness in this book, but so much light as well, and in fact the best parts of the book bring the two together. No one is perfect: not Alice, who’s a shambolic mother; not Lily, who’s married a man she barely knows; and not the man on the beach – definitely not him. But even in the gloom, there’s light – hope. And that’s how I felt when I finished reading this book: hopeful.
(An aside: my reading of this novel was ever so slightly hindered by a rather amusing glitch in the ARC file I read: every ‘fl’ and ‘fi’ in the book was missing. The result: text like ‘checks her reection briey’ and ‘a lightbulb on the string is zzing and ickering’. The fact that I read past this glitch, which was somewhat distracting, says a lot about how much I engaged with the book.)
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.