I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for What You Did, the latest novel from Claire McGowan.
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.
What You Did is told predominantly from Ali’s perspective, but with occasional insight from other characters, both major and minor. I think that I should have felt more sympathy towards Ali than I did, but there were times when I just didn’t like her very much. This didn’t affect my enjoyment of novel at all, and I still found it a gripping read as I wanted to know what had happened, and whether Ali’s husband, Mike, had done what Karen, Ali’s best friend, accused him of. If I didn’t take to her, I did sympathise with her dilemma, as Ali is in the horrible position of having choose sides between her best friend and her husband, who stand on the two sides of an accusation of sexual assault. I will say that while I may not have liked them, they were all very realistic individuals – flawed and imperfect, but entirely believable.
If the characters weren’t entirely to my taste, I thought that the plot of What You Did was fantastic. From Karen’s accusation it seems quite straightforward, and yet more information comes to light as the novel progresses that makes you question those initial assumptions. I loved the drip-feed of information that came across so naturally as Ali, who appears to have had her head in the sand for the last 20 years, gradually learns more, keeping the reader up to speed every step of the way. As well as the questions around Karen’s attack, there is also an unsolved mystery regarding Martha Rasbury. Martha was at university with the six friends that are reunited on that fateful night, but was found murdered during a summer ball. It’s a case that’s never been solved, and this adds another intriguing element to the novel as we learn more about their time at university.
Given the themes of the novel, What You Did also examines rape culture, and the way in which women are sometimes considered less believable if they are any combination of flirty, drunk, and / or dressed inappropriately. I thought that this was depicted brilliantly throughout the novel, as Ali works on the board of a rape charity, assisting the victims of sexual assault. Despite her strong views, she finds herself in a difficult position when it is her husband that is accused, and is torn between what she has seen through working for the charity and her familial loyalty. I thought that McGowan portrayed the moral dilemma that Ali faced brilliantly.
What You Did is a fantastic domestic thriller, and it’s one that will keep you reading “just one more chapter” as you try to work out what happened to both Karen and Martha. The conclusion was fantastic and deeply satisfying – I didn’t see it coming. Please note that, while the novel looks at rape culture and incidents of sexual assault, this all happens off page, and is handled with great sensitivity.
What You Did is published by Thomas & Mercer, and is available to purchase now. Many thanks to the publisher and to Emma of Damppebbles Blog Tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Make sure you check out the other fabulous bloggers on the tour: