‘Yvonne Carmichael has a high-flying career, a beautiful home and a good marriage. But when she meets a stranger she is drawn into a passionate affair. Keeping the two halves of her life separate seems easy at first – but she can’t control what happens next.’
I’ve been enjoying the wave of psychological thrillers and unreliable narrators recently – a couple of highlights have included Black-Eyed Susans, I Let You Go and In a Dark, Dark Wood. I decided to try Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard to keep my cravings at bay and, whilst it was a slightly different kettle of fish to the other thrillers I’d read recently, it was an enjoyable one.
Yvonne Carmichael has a steady, sensible life as a high-profile geneticist, respected in her field and by her husband and two children. But her whole life is turned upside down one day when a chance meeting with a mysterious, handsome stranger leads to a passionate affair. As she grows further and further away from her husband, who seems to barely notice her, let alone her extra-curricular activities, she realises that her feelings are growing for her enigmatic, suave lover. But she can’t help but feel like this is par for the course with him; expert at scheduling romantic trysts, keeping two separate phones that gives them a dedicated line, and indulging in anonymous sex in tucked-away public locations, he seems well-practised at cheating.
They both have everything under control, until an unexpected bump in the road derails everything. At a work party with colleagues, one of Yvonne’s esteemed friends, George, comes on to her. Yvonne isn’t interested – but he forces himself on her. Dazed and traumatised, she tries to get back to her everyday life after the incident, but George starts to shadow her, subtly at first but then more threateningly. Yvonne is cornered; she can’t tell her husband, she can’t her friends and she can’t tell anyone at work. But she can tell her lover, and so that’s what she does. Together they concoct a plan to frighten him off – but what starts as a simple scare tactic ends up in horror…
Before she knows it, Yvonne is up on trial in the Old Bailey, barely aware of how she got there or what she and her lover stand accused of. Used to giving evidence on the other side of the bench, Yvonne isn’t accustomed to what’s about to happen. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their sordid affair is about to become unravelled for all to see – but what else will be revealed, and will it be enough to put Yvonne behind bars for life..?
A taut psychological thriller, Apple Tree Yard will keep you guessing until the very last page. Louise Doughty teases out the story and denouement, bit by bit, playing on the disconnection between the reader and the characters to create a truly unexpected ending. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make this novel a very good read.