It’s been a while since last book club! I suppose our lives get in the way of us a little bit but as George R.R. Martin says:
“Sleep is good, he said, and books are better.”
The book follows Tessa, a survivor of a grim kidnapping where she was buried in a grave full of bones of girls who are other victims of her ‘monster’. The story flips between Tessa in the present day; fighting to help release the man she put on Death Row for the murders and young Tessa [Tessie] who was weeks before her trial and getting help from her doctor for the voices in her head (the Susans).
I think we were all really impressed with this novel. I love a good crime thriller and this book definitely keeps you guessing. Some of the group thought it was slow starting and most of us felt there were a lot of characters to contend with, lots of doctors etc. However, the plot does get very fast paced and none of us guessed who Tessa’s ‘monster’ was in the end. We discussed how if this book would have been written at a different time, for example at a time where black and white people were still segregated and black people had no rights. It was decided that if this was the case, Terrell (the black man on Death Row) wouldn’t have even been fought for, he would have been guilty with no appeals. We also talked about our own feelings towards Death Row. Some of us felt it was wrong but most of us were conflicted; what if the person turned out to be innocent?
I also brought up the many literary references in the book to mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe and also Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. One of Tessa’s doctors states that his daughter Rebecca went missing years ago. We later find out that the name Rebecca was from Du Maurier’s fictional character. Although this could be a link to the doctor’s missing daughter, I saw it as a link to Tessa’s elusive friend Lydia. Throughout the book we never see Lydia, we only ever hear about her through Tessa’s thoughts or ‘Tessie’s’ flashbacks. She’s this sinister omnipresent character that influences Tessa’s whole life and future. I feel like this reflects well with Rebecca who is this character that we always know about through the new Mrs De Winter’s thoughts but we never see her. Her presence is everywhere in Manderley, in the rooms…even in the plants…but she is the to titular character and she is the main character.
These were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not like plants at all.
About rhododendrons in Rebecca
About Black-eyed Susans in Black-Eyed Susans
Although the book is not named Lydia (lol) it is called Black-Eyed Susans which I think when you read it you’ll realise how it doesn’t just apply to the bodies buried underground with Tessa covered in wild flowers…
Definitely a good read and an easy read. We found it very gripping and was a great source of discussion with many themes and unexpected characterisation.
Of course we decided who would play the characters if we made a movie (I think they are making a movie of it…). Here we go:
Tessa – Jessica Chastain
Lydia – Christina Ricci
Tessie – Jane Levy
Charlie – Ellie Bamber
Doctor – Ralph Fiennes
Bill – Chris Pratt (with much debate)
Lucas – Channing Tatum (with little debate)
Terrell – Michael Clarke Duncan
Jo – Kim Dickens
Next time it’s Alex’s pick and she has gone for Lolita. Don’t know how we’re all going to cope with this one but I’m intrigued…