REVIEW: ‘The Book of You’ by Claire Kendal

The Book of You

They say never judge a book by its cover but when you are wandering through a book shop or browsing online, that is exactly what we do.

This may be something that we pretend not to associate ourselves with but this secret is well-known to the publishing industry. The spend a lot of time and money designing book covers, writing blurbs, as they know, that ultimately, this can be a major fact in attracting us to picking up a book. The Book of You’s cover is definitely eye-catching. It is simple, being black and white, but this is contrasted against the yellow writing of the title and the blue of the iris of the women on the cover. The reviews on the front of the novel sing its praises and tell of its tense and terrifying nature. It was fair to say, upon seeing the cover, I was sold. Never did I imagine that I had picked up one of the best books I had read to date. Never before had I had to put a book back down because it had scared me (I honestly had to check my room before I locked my door that night).

The Book of You tells the tale of a woman called Clarissa who is currently on jury duty. It is not long before she sees herself in the victim’s shoes, as a man from work, Rafe, won’t leave her alone. As jury duty stretches out, she begins to see that Rafe is just a man who has gotten a bit too attached, he’s a stalker and he’s violent. Kendal blends in third-person narration of the jury duty with first-person narration of Clarissa’s diary. The two different forms of narration work really well in this novel. The third-person perspective lets the reader see the stalker from an outsider’s perspective, while the first-person narration allows the reader to understand the emotions and thoughts of a victim. The first-person narration is when I had to put down the book. It is not scary in the way a horror movie would scare you but in a way that you could put yourself in Clarissa’s situation and know that you would be terrified. What is also scary, is the fact you would most likely, in reading this novel, attribute Rafe’s actions to men you have known, or see yourself in Clarissa. This book will make you wish no one will ever have to suffer in this way, but it will also convince you that sexual harassment/abuse/stalking happens around the world, every day.

What, I feel, is the sheer brilliance to this book is the insight into the mind of the stalker and the victim. Kendal perfectly describes how Rafe, as a stalker, feels it is his right to continue doing what he is doing, that he doesn’t see anything wrong in it. This truly brings suspense to the novel as the reader is unaware how far Rafe is willing to go, is there a line he wouldn’t cross? Kendal also depicts the instability of the victim. Clarissa believes that she has lead Rafe on, that people would blame her and she would only embarrass herself if she spoke out. I feel that this really speaks about the way society sees sexual harassment/abuse victims. Women are discriminated against, especially in court cases, if they had already slept with the suspect previously, dated them previously, asked them into their house, and wore ‘provocative’ clothing. Kendal sends a very important message that tells us that no matter the past history, the circumstances, no is always no.

The Book of You is fundamentally a great novel on many different levels. It has a well-thought out storyline, powerful characters whom give us great insights into criminals and victims mind, it is thought-provoking, a tense thriller and speaks of wider concerns in our society.

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