After her husband’s big promotion, Cece Solarin arrives in Brighton with their three children, ready to start afresh. But their new neighbourhood has a deadly secret.
Three weeks earlier, Yvonne, a very popular parent, was almost murdered in the grounds of the local school – the same school where Cece has unwittingly enrolled her children.
Already anxious about making friends when the parents seem so cliquey, Cece is now also worried about her children’s safety. By chance she meets Maxie, Anaya and Hazel, three very different school mothers who make her feel welcome and reassure her about her new life.
That is until Cece discovers the police believe one of her new friends tried to kill Yvonne. Reluctant to spy on her friends but determined to discover the truth, Cece must uncover the potential murderer before they strike again…
Review: Ever since reading The Ice Cream Girls all those years ago, I have loved Dorothy Koomson’s writing and storytelling. I feel like you just ‘know‘ when you’re reading one of Dorothy’s books, even if you weren’t told who the author was. For me, her books are a stable comfort, ones I know I’ve loved before and will love again in the future. So massive thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of Dorothy’s newest book The Friend over for review.
The Friend is about Cece, who has just moved to Brighton with her teenage daughter and twin boys for her husband’s new job. She reluctantly enrols her boys into a private school, Plummer Prep, which is where she meets Hazel, Maxie and Anaya – 3 mother’s from the school. Cece finds out, to her horror, that another mother – Yvonne – was attacked in the school grounds, shortly before Cece moved there and is now lying in a coma in hospital. Whilst Cece is just trying to fit in to a new area and make friends, she’s also burdened with an old flame from her past, a police officer, who believes one of her new friends friend to kill Yvonne.
Cece’s loyalties are torn and she doesn’t want to go behind her friends backs. But they are acting all the more strange and from Cece’s experience, she knows something doesn’t add up. Throughout this rich tale of friendship, love and hate we delve deeply into the past of all 4 women. We find out their lives, their secrets and their lies but do we find out which one would go to the extreme and try and kill a woman who was blackmailing her?
This is a long-ass book and usually long-ass books put me right off but for this elaborate story, all 468 pages were very much needed and not one of them was wasted. Despite the blurb and the beginning of the book giving you the impression it as going to be focused mostly on Cece, the new mum in town, as we go into the story, the focus is very much split evenly between all 4 women. Although Cece’s important role in this whole big drama is very underestimated.
All 4 women had such vibrant personalities and back-stories. They were all wildly different from each other, which is good as there’s quite a lot of names to remember in the book and although I didn’t remember all of the children’s names and who their respective parents are, the 4 main women are hard to forget. Dorothy makes a point of telling you how their personalities differ through Cece, as Cece understands how each of them tick and how each of them react to certain things. My favourite character was probably Cece herself as I loved her role in this story. But they were all incredibly strong , independent women at the forefront of this story which I loved.
The structure of the book worked perfectly for me as well. I’ve said before that I really cannot stand long chapters and this book was split into 15 ‘parts‘ with short chapters and splitting points of view between Cece, Maxie, Hazel and Anaya. What I particularly loved, especially near the beginning, was how we see the same scene from each woman’s point of view. And thinking back at the beginning of the book now makes me almost nostalgic, as you feel like you’ve really come on a journey with these women when you reach the end.
This book does capture all different types of relationships and friendships; ones that gravitate around certain activities, ones that are deep set, new ones, old ones and ones that are breaking up. Dorothy covers all basis of the human experience of relationships and no two friendships in this one are the same. She also covers some immensely important topics throughout the book such as blackmail, racism, abuse and divorce. And as always with Dorothy’s books, captures all of these topics with grace.
I could praise Dorothy all day until I’m blue in the face so I’m going to stop there for now. The Friend is one of those deep, rich, addictive, all-encompassing novels that binds you up within its pages, its characters and it’s setting and seldom lets you go. I love it when I find a book where I literally don’t want to stop reading for a second and this was one of those. Just one more chapter. Just one more page. Until I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. Dorothy has such a strong voice in Women’s literature and The Friend just confirms that even further.