You don’t have to be female to enjoy this debut novel, but I’m pretty sure that being female will help you to understand it. After all, this is a novel about the precious commodity of female friendship – and nothing can be so complicated. Love/Hate/Envy/Compassion/Empathy/Comfort/Deviousness/Neediness. All of these things – and more. After all… only those who know you best can really manipulate you emotionally.
Clara and Rachel are ‘best friends’. When they meet they are very different. Clara is attractive and popular at school. Rachel is the awkward, plump, ginger-haired ‘new girl’. When their teacher assigns them to sit together, a life-long friendship is born. Both are ‘only’ children. Rachel lives in a fatherless family. Clara lives in a motherless family. They seem to be two halves of one whole…
“Precious Thing” is written as a first person narrative from Rachel’s point of view, so you understand what is going on in her head – though you only have to speculate on Clara’s viewpoint. The time frame switches back and forth from the present day to when the girls were still in school. When the girls (who hate gym class) decide to break each others wrists to avoid it – the reader begins to comprehend that this friendship has somehow crossed the line…
Fast forward ten years. The girls are young women now. Rachel is a slim attractive and successful television news journalist presenter with a handsome and devoted boyfriend. Clara, though well traveled, has not been so lucky – either in life or in love. When Clara asks Rachel to come to Brighton to have a girls’ night out, Rachel agrees. However, Clara doesn’t show up at the club. Rachel calls her and texts her, but there is no reply. The plan was for Rachel to stay over at Clara’s apartment so that she would not have to make the journey back to London after drinking. Rachel goes to Clara’s apartment but there is no answer – so she rents a hotel room for the night.
The next day Rachel is summoned by her employers to attend a press conference about a missing person. Much to Rachel’s shock and dismay, the missing woman is Clara!
After weeks pass, it is clear that Clara is either dead or does not want to be found. When Rachel’s boyfriend is also presumed to be missing, her world starts to spiral out of control. She thought he was in Afghanistan, but it turns out he never made the flight. Now it would seem that the two people she cares for most in the world are gone. How could this be?
The novel reveals some very uncomfortable truths and poses some probing questions. Even if you have known someone for years and have a close relationship – can you ever real ‘know‘ another person? Can closeness turn into obsession? Can true friends grow apart? If one friend is needier than the other, can this create a insurmountable rift in the relationship? If one friend is a ‘leader’ and the other a ‘follower’ – what happens when a shift of power takes place? One of my favorite quotes from the novel states “The truth is not absolute, but subjective. All our truths are different”.
“Precious Thing” will appeal to anyone who enjoys a well paced psychological thriller. It contains no gratuitous violence, no blood, no gore. However, it is a creepy and disturbing novel that contains plot twists and engaging characters. Some of the plot twists I could predict – some were surprises. Although a debut novel, it does not read like one and has been compared to the best-selling “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn.
Colette McBeth discusses her first novel, “Precious Thing”. A former crime correspondent for BBC News, she writes well and knows her subject.
Thanks once again to NetGalley for the digital version of this novel.