The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton
Published in 2015 by twenty7
My version: Kindle
1996. Freya Seymour and Josephine Grey are invincible – beautiful and brilliant, the two best friends are on the cusp of Oxbridge, and the success they always dreamed they’d share.
2014. Freya gets in touch, looking for a conversation Josephine has run away from for eighteen long and tortured years.
Beginning with one ill-fated night, The Exclusives charts the agonising spiral of friendship gone wrong, the heartache and betrayal of letting down those closest to you and the poisonous possibilities of what we wouldn’t do when everything we prize is placed under threat.
And in the end, as she realises she cannot run for ever, Josephine must answer one question: is it Freya she cannot face, or is it her own darkest secret?
Freya and Josephine go to an exclusive all-girls boarding school. When Jo is made head girl, the girls go clubbing to celebrate. Fast forward 18 years and Jo is an archaeologist, and is shocked when she gets an email from Freya out of the blue wanting to see her. What happened all those years ago to destroy their friendship?
This novel has a structure that I’ve encountered before in psychological thrillers, with alternating chapters set in the present day and then back when the events in question took place. The flashback sections worked well and built up a lot of tension as you tried to work out what had happened with Jo and Freya when they were at boarding school together.
I found this to be a gripping read and was sucked in straight away. It is formulaic in some ways – the protagonist has had a convenient memory lapse regarding the events that took place on the fateful evening, but this does help keep the reader guessing. The narrator, Jo, is a complex character and we find out a lot more about her as the story progresses, including the mental health problems suffered by her mother, which have obviously had an adverse effect on Jo and made her determined to stay in complete control of her own life.
Despite finding myself hooked on this novel – and I read the second half in one sitting as I really wanted to know what would happen – there were some parts I thought were poorly written, and the dialogue was sometimes unconvincing. One section, for example, went as follows (paraphrasing here):
Character 1: Where is Miss X?
Character 2: She’s in hospital.
Character 1. Ok. I just spoke to Miss X’s father and he is on the way to hospital to see her.
Err… then why did you ask where she was if you already knew? There were lots of niggly issues like this, and that did somewhat spoil my enjoyment of the novel, which was otherwise well structured and good at building up tension.
For some reason I was expecting a nasty twist at the end of this novel which didn’t happen, and I did find myself a little let down by the ending as everything was tied up perhaps a bit too nicely. But if you want a piece of escapism – and are perhaps not as picky as me! – then I do recommend this as a well structured and quite gripping thriller.