I Looked Away is a wonderfully crafted and absorbing psychological thriller from the very talented Jane Corry. The novel is cleverly plotted where you know there’s a major twist coming and it teases in the background as you become instantly captivated by the personal accounts of the two main characters, Ellie and Jo. The narrative is developed from each of their points of view, plus a little snippet of another relationship that hangs around the plot as a looming shadow.
This is a fascinating thriller that illustrates how precariously people can live on the edge of constant uncertainty. We witness personalities being unveiled and their mental angsts being shrewdly exposed. The full array of characters is diverse and the many relationships are unique with such an impressive range of striking interactions.
The opening scene is a heart-breaking family tragedy, and four months later Ellie is in prison, reflecting back on her childhood. Since Ellie was 5 years old and witnessing her mother’s death she has felt everything good in her life gets taken away. She had to grow up with her father remarrying a neighbour, the addition of a brother, Michael, and her stepmother, Sheila Greenway, who openly detests Ellie and demonstrates clear choices between the two children. We know that an incident is coming that will result in Ellie committing an offence and spending 4 years in Highbridge prison.
Jo has her own prison experiences and is living homeless, travelling from Bristol to Devon and Cornwall, and encountering various characters during her travels. We very subtly learn a little bit about Jo but she keeps her past hidden. The sense of authenticity for the lives of the homeless must have been passionately researched.
Both Ellie and Jo have major traits in common, the psychological turmoil, the sense of undeserved happiness, the caution and vulnerability when a new person is kind but history tells you that people bring disappointment and danger. Better to part now that things are good, rather than wait for the customary dashed promise and suffering. The two women are outwardly soft and pleasant but the whispering suspicion of risk and danger is wonderfully threaded through the narrative.
The book is almost 500 pages and it literally (haha) flew by as I was so obsessed by the characters and the plot. The emotional energy plied by Jane and consumed by the reader is intense. I would highly recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Jane Corry and Penguin UK for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.