Saturday, December 5, 2020

Lisa Jewell - I Found You

In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on
a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.
Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed.
Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother.
Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray?

Comment: I wasn't planning on reading this book but considered it to offer as a Christmas present and the blurb intrigued me enough to try it myself.

In this mystery we follow several characters as they go on their attempts to make sense of what is going on with someone close to them. For Alice is the strange man she sees through her window, sitting all day on the beach. That man has lost his memory and is just trying to think about what it means why he went to that place, why should it mean anything at all to him. Then, there's young Lily, a newlywed whose husband is missing but when she contacts the police, they tell her he can't exist for there are no records of him anywhere. How do these stories connect? Do they connect at all?

This is the first book I read by this author. The thriller genre isn't the one I gravitate to the most but I don't mind reading it once in a while. I saw this author had quite a fan base and her books had a good average in terms of ratings so I decided to bet on one to give as gift and the person I thought of doesn't have this one. I decided to try it too, just to see if this an author to look for.

The plot is classic thriller, where we follow different characters as they go through the motions of investigating/worrying about something. Alice feels emotionally vulnerable so she opens her house to the stranger in the beach who can't remember who he is. The stranger, named Frank by Alice's children, hopes to gain a clue on why he ended up in that specific beach. And Lily is looking for her husband, whose whereabouts no one can guess. These people will discover they have something in common but until then, we also have flashback chapters with a family, years ago, in the same small city where most of the action now takes place and how their holidays ended up so badly.

The past and present alternate chapters obviously offer enough mystery to keep turning the pages. Of course I was intrigued and wanted to know what the big secret that united those characters was, but to be really honest, I think the final reveal was very disappointing. I expected some kind of twist, or at least a much more plausible explanation for everything. When we finally bring the loose ends together and come up with the big picture, the logic and psychology of it was very weak. I kept thinking why don't those people just talk to the police? How could the family members we meet during the past chapters have behaved like that too? I can accept doubts in some decision making and it's true we always have the answers after things happen but I don't think the author convinced me with those characters and their personalities/motivations.

Alice came across as too needy. I can sympathize with her need to feel loved, to cherish her children but to also have someone to be intimate with. When she welcomes Frank to her house, I imagined much more compelling thriller scenarios but that wasn't the route taken.

Frank discovers in the end why he lost his memory (obviously after he gets it back) but the "medical" explanation isn't very convincing. Or the portrayal of it wasn't so. He isn't a true villain, but the whole mystery surrounding him was way better than the real reasons behind his behavior. 

Lily was very intriguing and pushy, I actually thought there was something more to her being odd and why she acted almost troublesome in some scenes than just a cultural difference. I think her "arc" wasn't used to the best of its potential.

In fact, I'd say this is my overall feeling as the story came to the end. There are hints, suggestions of how much anticipation could be gotten, how much suspense the whole plot could originate but it never quite reaches the maximum potential, as if the author didn't take the step extra to make the story feel even more uneasy to the reader. I think the plot could have gained by having more tension in everything. The final explanations actually felt weak in comparison to the amount of work it took to set up things as the author planned.

At a certain point, the mystery regarding identities is no longer a mystery, only in how that came to be. Then that element is revealed but not why. When that does happen, the psychology and logic behind some things doesn't seem to have enough strength and I wonder how the villain had the patience to wait so long to become a different person and why he even bothered when nothing in his past could be enough to condemn him. I also think some plot choices were chosen to go from one point to another but not all made sense. It's difficult to imagine real people acting like that but, well, at the same time the world is full of weirdos so what do I know?

All things considered, this wasn't a bad book to read. Rather weak in terms of plot/characterization but the overall sense of the writing style isn't bad. I'd read another book by the author, at least to compare.

Grade: 6/10

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