When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.
On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.
But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget
Review: I was over the moon to have received a review copy of this book, all the way back in December (I think). The eerily sinister book cover lured me straight in (as most sinister looking things do – not sure what that says about me!) and all-in-all sounded just like my kinda book. I wasn’t aware, when I started reading this at the beginning of January, that it wasn’t published until May. So this review has been a loooooong time coming and I can’t wait to finally share my thoughts about it with you.
Caroline and her husband Francis take part in a house swap (who’d have thought?) for the week in order for them to have a small getaway for two but not too far from their son, Eddie. It seems like the perfect plan; a week in a different house, with different surroundings and the freedom to go out and do fun stuff together every day. Especially after an extremely difficult few years dealing with Francis’ mental health and drug problem. It was just what they needed.
Until Caroline starts to notice strange stuff dotted around the house, things that bring up old memories of a significant part of her life – her affair. Her lovers aftershave, a photo of the park they went to, a song they liked and all of a sudden, Caroline realizes that this wasn’t just a house swap after all, it was planned and it’s about to get deeper than any of the parties involved had imagined.
I’m reluctant to say anything else about the story-line because I really wouldn’t want to give anything away – the book is written in alternating chapters of “home” and “away” (sorry to whoever now has the Home and Away theme song stuck in their head – whoops). Past and present. The past chapters show the build up in Caroline’s affair with her work colleague, Carl and the destruction of her husband’s mental issues and problems with drugs. Rebecca paints a good “over time” picture of the couple’s history and problems which all ultimately lead up to a devastating breaking point.
There’s also sneaky little “anonymous” chapters thrown in among these main chapters, written by an anonymous person and I bloody love those in Thriller / Mystery based books because it’s never who I think it’s going to be and this book was no expecting. Rebecca firmly makes you think you know who it is – it’s obvious right? Wrong. And that was one of the main things I loved about this book; how everything came together, this very clear cut chain of events which spanned over years, to create the explosion at the end. It’s something I didn’t see coming.
The emotions in this book, that the characters felt, were described absolutely outstandingly. From Francis’ bleak outlook and general numbness during his worst times to Caroline and Carl’s passion during their affair, we really do feel what the characters are feeling. Although it’s a Thriller and it’s eerie and made me anxious and uncomfortable at times, ultimately it is a story about love and loss and emotion and that was really nice to see and read so vividly in a book like this.
I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book. The writing was effortless – it was one of those reads that make you feel like you’re on one of those revolving walkways in an airport, gracefully moving from one page to the next with absolutely no restraint or effort involved. I’m a slow reader, so I bloody love books like that. And for a debut? Well, it’s an exceptionally solid debut. And if this is the first book from this author, I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on what she produces next.
The House Swap kept me completely and utterly hooked right from the get-go. It was uncomfortable and eerie and roused genuine feelings of anxiety in me. A vivid, clever and emotionally charged debut from a extremely promising new author.