Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
Opening sentence: “Three is a good and safe number.”
Narrated by Daisy Rankin, her brother Max, father Nick and mother Rosie, this book is about the consequences of Nick’s affair with Rosie’s best friend, Lisa and how it affects each member of both Nick and Lisa’s families. The concise title is clever and exceptionally fitting, as although the plot focuses on an obvious betrayal – of marriage vows – the plural is there for a reason; each character is betrayed / the betrayer at some point, whether they realise it or not.
Taking a closer look at the interesting mix of characters: Max, the youngest family member never knowingly does anything that will hurt others and feels a high level of responsibility for his sister. This is due to Daisy’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which she tries desperately to keep under control and not let run her life. I had an insight into the realities of OCD earlier this year when I read Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon, her memoir of living with the disorder. It was so interesting and informative and really helped me understand Daisy’s character even more.
OCD is just one of the serious issues that this book doesn’t shy away from tackling. Rosie, a cancer doctor, is dedicated to her work and we see just how consuming this disease is to both those that have it and, like Rosie, those trying to find a cure.
Rounding up the Rankin family is Nick, he is a (at times wonderfully sarcastic) memory specialist and his profession is a theme that is intricately woven throughout the book. Several times we are presented with contradicting versions of events by different characters, but who is recalling the truth and is anyone purposely twisting the past for their own gain? This exploration of how much can memories really be trusted to give an accurate account of the truth is an engrossing narrative element.
Overall, I was completely drawn into this dysfunctional family tale. Neill does an excellent job of creating and balancing the thoughts and feelings of the four family members. I found that as each put their point-of-view across, I empathised with them, yes, they contradicted each other, but all presented reasonable-from-their-point-of-view opinions. The ending was more abrupt than I was expecting, but upon reflection, for a book that deals with the disjointed, unpredictable nature of life and being part of a family, this was the perfect way to complete this novel. It means, as I write this a few days after finishing it, I’m still thinking about that ending and wondering what the characters will do now. Always a good sign.