About The Book
A vicious assault. A devastating accusation. Who should she trust, her husband or her best friend?
It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.
When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying, but which? And why?
When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.
Ali, Chair of a Woman’s Refuge and Mike,a lawyer have recently bought a beautiful house. They have two children and a long-lasting marriage that started when they met at Oxford University a quarter of a Century ago. Deciding to show off their new house Ali invites the rest of their friendship group from their University days to stay for a weekend of merriment celebrating 25 years of friendship. The six of them have, for the most part, stayed in touch since they Graduated but this will be the first time they have all been together since the night of their Graduation Ball. On their first night together, one member of the group, Karen, accuses Mike of rape. Suddenly this get together takes a dark and distressing turn, threatening a marriage, friendships and loyalties.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It has a tightly woven plot and a clever narrative structure that kept me turning the pages. A dual timeline provides a backstory to the friendships and a deepening understanding of the main players. The accusation of rape fractures the close knit friendship between Ali and Karen and forces the others to take sides. The thing is, it also threatens to reveal secrets from their past.
There is such a wonderful exploration of friendship in this book. Claire McGowan nails how they change, how they can be the most important part of your life, how they shape and form you and ultimately how fragile they are. The friendships in this book are on shifting tectonic plates and there are years of secrets between these six adults. Alliances are formed and broken as the rape accusation causes tidal waves through their already fractured relationships. As their friendships shifted so did my loyalties.
I wouldn’t say that any of the characters were particularly likeable but boy are they compelling. It would have been easy to caricature and exaggerate but Claire McGowan doesn’t do this, they are believable and their actions and reactions felt authentic. Ali is a woman on the edge, desperate to keep her family together and clear her husband’s name, but something in their past is impacting on the present and casting a dark shadow. She knows how rape victims should be treated, she’s trained in this and has appeared on TV discussing it, yet when the rapist is her husband all of her training goes out of the window.
What You Did deals with a tricky subject matter and handles it sensitively. It is an emotional read at times and doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations but it isn’t used gratuitously or as a cheap shock tactic. It is an insightful examination of blame culture and the complexities of rape cases. This is great writing which plays with preconceptions and forces the reader to question their own opinions.
Layers of mystery and secrets combine to create an explosive and compelling read which I highly recommend.
About The Author
Born in Northern Ireland in 1981, Claire McGowan studied in Oxford then lived overseas in France and China. She is the author of standalone thriller The Fall, and the Paula Maguire series, including The Lost, The Dead Ground, The Silent Dead, A Savage Hunger, Blood Tide, and The Killing House. The Paula Maguire series was optioned by the BBC in 2014. A ten-part radio drama written by Claire was broadcast on Radio 4 in early 2019, and as a screenwriter she was selected as the 2017/18 Nickelodeon International Writing Fellow. Claire set up the Crime Thriller Writing MA at City University, London, and has also taught for the Arvon Foundation, Guardian Masterclasses and at many literary festivals.
As Eva Woods, she has published four women’s fiction novels, including the bestselling How To Be Happy.
Photo of Claire by James Drew.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Emma Welton at Damppebbles for an invitation to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book.