Catherine braces herself, but there is nothing left to come up.
– Opening sentence
Today I have spent a lazy Sunday in bed reading Disclaimer whilst my boyfriend, Scott, attempts to complete Mass Effect on the xbox.
I picked up a copy of this last year, because of the teasing text on the cover – “Imagine if the next thriller you opened was all about you.”
We begin with Catherine, 49, being sick in her bathroom. She just started reading a book called ‘The Perfect Stranger’. At first she thought it was like any other book, but then she realised it was a book about her, and a secret she has kept hidden for twenty years.
Disclaimer jumps between 1993 and 2013, written in the perspective of three characters; Catherine, her husband (Robert), and an old man called Stephen.
It’s very cleverly written, hinting at more to come but jumping from scene to scene at just the right time so you keep reading; needing to know what happens next.
What it encapsulates well, is the way people read between the lines and jump to a conclusion – a conclusion that they want to believe. Everyone does it, but Disclaimer highlights the detrimental effect this can have, and how dangerous it can be.
When a 19 year old boy dies, and his mother finds photographs on his camera, she does what any mother would do; fill in the gaps with a truth that will keep her mind at peace.
When a widower finds a hidden manuscript by his deceased wife, he does what he think she would have wanted; he finishes the story – but not without filling in the gaps with his own, twisted, ending.
And when a husband finds an envelope of photographs, he immediately see’s a betrayal, without stopping to think about the alternatives.
It’s an interesting window into human nature, and the way people see and act in times of shock, horror and grief.
From the very beginning, I stuck by Catherine. Despite what she was being accused of, I sensed that there was something bigger at play. I don’t know whether that was because the author, Renee Knight, wanted that, or whether I simply chose to refuse someone could be that selfish.
Either way, I was not relieved by the revelation – it doesn’t make for pleasant reading, and – although unpleasant – seemed a little bit weak*.
However, I think Knight did an excellent job for her first thriller, as it is gripping, full of twists and turns, and impossible to put down. Yet, it won’t be a book I’d particularly want to read again. Purely because I don’t think I’d get anything else from it. It’s a good story, but one that is told all at once – if that makes sense. It’s all about the secret – and once the truth is known all the suspense and earnest is lost.
He allowed her to stroke his back and hold his head, and she was overcome with gratitude for the chance he was giving her to get to know him at last.
– Final sentence
(3 / 5)
For those of you who have read Disclaimer, you might understand what I mean when I say that the reveal is somewhat weak.
For instance, believing what Stephen and his wife, Nancy, believe – that their son was taken advantage by an older, experienced woman, who used him – the fact that he died saving her son is obviously traumatic. And obviously, they would feel that the woman was partly responsible.
But that doesn’t explain the murderous hatred? Surely you wouldn’t then want to kill that woman’s son? Especially knowing how much that hurts? And for what? Revenge?
It just doesn’t make sense.
But I guess that’s the point? Nancy was driven to insanity but her son’s death. She wasn’t thinking rationally and making any sense, and the story she wrote was complete fiction, in an attempt to sooth her heartbreak.
The weird Stephen-stalks-a-pupil subplot is irrelevant and pointless. I don’t know why this wasn’t removed from the book. Is it supposed to show that he is just as unstable as his wife? As his son? Were they all just crazy?!
What do you think? Comments please!