BOOK REVIEW – Black Wood by S.J.I. Holliday

Black Wood

This was THE Book Club’s (Facebook) April Book of The Month (BOTM) – a new concept where everyone who wants to, reads a pre-selected book (which members vote on). They then have 4 weeks in which to read the book, and then there is an online discussion together with the author.

This is a dark story with very sinister undertones. Something happened to Claire and Jo in the woods when they were much younger and since then things have never been the same. Claire is paralysed and has no recollection of the events of that day, and Jo is left questioning whether her account of things is really what happened. Regardless of that, she doesn’t like to think about it and has buried the past deep in her psyche. But now someone is stalking people at ‘The Track’ and there’s speculation that whoever attacked the girls all those years ago is inexplicably back to cause more damage.

Divided into sections: ‘The Woods’ and ‘The Boy’, the narrative jumps between the past and the present. I didn’t find this confusing (it seems to be a very common writing method lately), but what was a bit complicated was that new characters and storylines were still being introduced up until nearly halfway through the book, which I found a bit difficult to keep up with. However, despite this, the book is still a gripping read.

The other strange thing is that although I found most of the characters highly unlikeable, I was still absorbed by the story. Nobody seems to like Jo, but they seem bound by a sense of duty to remain friendly with her and to look after her and ensure that she’s OK (which she clearly isn’t). I also wondered why she was in such a quandary as to where she would go when her boyfriend breaks up with her, when it turns out she has her own cottage (albeit, in a remote area) left to her by her grandmother. So she isn’t exactly as out on her ear as is made out. It did take me a while to come to the conclusion that the memories that the cottage conjures for her are difficult for Jo to come to terms with, so eventually I did understand why she avoided the place.

So you might be wondering why I gave the book 4 stars when it seems to be such a hodge-podge of a story! The truth is that despite all its many flaws, it’s an absorbing read. You want to get to the end so that all is revealed and neatly wrapped up, and although the ending isn’t as ‘wow’ as I wanted it to be, it is all eventually disclosed and you do get some sense of closure.

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