‘Crushed’ by Kate Hamer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. ‘Thoughts are just thoughts’, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point towards her mother’s room. She’s exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber and Faber and Kate Hamer for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This unusual story is narrated by three very different friends, from very different backgrounds, as events unfold that will change each of their lives forever.

Phoebe is a strange, mysterious girl. She has no self confidence thanks to her narcissistic mother who controls and demeans her at every opportunity. This has led to Phoebe trying to find confidence and strength through things such as her secret eating disorder, rituals and the power of her mind; she believes that she can make things happen just by imagining them, including murder. Orla is the rich girl with the mother who gives her everything. But she is also worried about her mother discovering the truth: she is in love with Phoebe. Phoebe knows and uses it to her advantage causing Orla to veer between love and hate for her beautiful friend. Then there is Grace. Grace lives in the town’s only tower block where she is the carer for her single mother who has MS. She is weighed down by the responsibility but  also dreads the thought of anyone taking over and separating them, leading her to make decisions that are questionable as she desperately tries to hold her crumbling family together.

Although all three characters were well written, Phoebe was the one who stood out most of all. She is complex and someone who my heart broke for one minute and I hated the next. She could be unspeakably cruel but when you read how her mother treated her you understand why she did these things and that this was the way she’d learned to feel powerful and in control. She had no example of healthy love and affection and only knew toxic love. Grace’s chapters were the hardest for me to read as I’m also a mother with chronic, debilitating illnesses and for a long time I was a single parent with a child who was my main carer. Reading her hurt and anger at their situation was like a knife in my heart and I feel so thankful that my son no longer has that pressure and that he never got to the stage of feeling such anger and like his life choices were taken away from him because of my illness. I think Grace’s feelings were understandable yet are also what any parent who’s ill dreads their children feeling. I thought the author did a fantastic job of realistically portraying their situation.

This was my first read by this author and I found myself mesmerised by the lyrical, hypnotic and lurid style of writing. Phoebe’s parts are particularly stylistic and intoxicating and were my favourite to read despite their dark content. Throughout the story there is the constant theme of Macbeth, which is the book the girls are studying in English. Phoebe is unnerved by the story and feels it is bewitching her life through the book. Crushed itself is a kind of retelling of the tale with the three friends who dabble with witchcraft being the modern version of the three sisters.

This tragic story of friendship, love, heartbreak and murder is an unusual but fascinating book.It is well plotted and keeps up the pace throughout building to a sinister and shocking finale.

Out May 2nd.

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