Opening sentence: “The first thing she noticed was her skin.”
I knew nothing about this book when I started it, it popped through my letterbox just as I’d finished my current read, so it felt right to dive straight in. My other half saw the cover and said, “that looks a bit creepy” – (apparently it’s the font of the title and sinisterly lit window…) this then planted the seed in my mind that this was, in fact, going to be a bit of a creepy read. As it happens, there are sentences of foreboding scattered throughout (‘Something he was going to find out, in the weeks ahead.’) that seem to support my unintentional mindset.
Phoebe is an artist and her brother Robert, a writer (or rather, aspiring writer) and they are both a bit lost in life. With a little trust fund of money, they don’t need to worry about making ends meet and are – essentially – free to indulge their artistic passions. They are also in a position to employ a live-in carer for their elderly father. They find Mandy, who, despite being a perfect fit for the role and despite their father’s obvious joy in her company, they look down on as they consider themselves better-educated, a higher-class of people. They try to understand their father’s relationship with Mandy, but end up bitching about how spending so much time with her is gently altering their father, ‘That Rolls-Royce of a brain seemed to be dwindling into discussions about retail outlets and chocolate mousse.’ They also have suspicions about Mandy’s intentions, especially as their father is showing early signs of dementia and may not by fully aware of what is happening. This is a thread that is wonderfully played out all through the read. (‘Once lodged, suspicions are impossible to shift. Not until something happens that proves they’re groundless.’)
I realise I may not have sold Phoebe and Robert to you there, but they are not unlikeable characters, they do at least concede that, ‘They had absolved themselves of responsibility by paying somebody else. So who were they to judge?’ It is the studied characterisation and details about family relationships that really makes The Carer stand out in my mind, on paper you might not take to the characters, but when reading, you do. Mandy is also wonderfully ambiguous, you never know where you stand with her. This contributes to the low-level sense of tension that hums along in the background of what otherwise is a very pleasant novel to read. It’s this unique juxtaposition that makes this such an addictive little book. And – no spoilers – but this really didn’t end the way I thought it would and I love books that completely smash my expectations.
/ Thank you to Tinder Press for the ARC. I was kindly sent this book in exchange for an honest review.
/ Published by Tinder Press July 2019
/ 264 pages
/ Rating: 4/5