One of my all time favourite book! You may have heard of it, as into a hideous ITV drama a few years ago which was a total mess! I do recommend giving it a read as it is truly gripping and thought provoking.
Like the best seller Gone Girl, The Poison Tree has two narratives, this one flicks between the past (Karen aged 21) in the summer of 1997; and the present (Karen aged 31) when her partner Rex comes out of jail for murder.
Karen aged 21, is a come-of-age story, about finally finding out who you are and who you want to be. She’s graduating university a straight lace, straight A student who’s never really lived.
Until she meet the bohemian and intoxicating Biba! I think most girl’s can relate to when you were young and you made a friend that was cooler than you were and how that made you feel. Well that’s Karen’s relationship with Biba, who comes across as the real protagonist while Karen is the narrator. Karen also falls for Biba’s brother Rex, who is the protector of both girls.
Karen aged 31, is now a controlling and paranoid woman scared for the safety of Rex, and their beloved daughter Alice, once Rex gets out of jail. Someone is after them, watching the house, calling them at home. Karen is determined to find out who it is to prevent them from ruining her family, but she also has to reconnect to Rex have 10 years apart, and readjust to life with him.
Completely gripping! Both past and present are so interweaved and secrets revealed in the present are answered in the past. I love how nothing is explained until much later in the book, to keep you guessing and trying to figure it out. The first chapter says Rex comes out of jail, but why? Who died? What is the relevance of X? Why is Y so important?
And the ending is electric!
Critics of the book have dissed Biba’s character as annoying and have said it’s unrealistic that Karen would become such close friends with her over the course of a few months. I completely disagree, I have had friendships like that in my late teens, where you meet are instantly best friends and think you’ll be friends forever. It’s a story of that experience, which if you haven’t had might be hard to believe it exists.
My only real disappointment was in Rex. He’s a nice enough guy, but is not as well rounded and as detailed as the girls, in the ’97 he comes across and lazy and seems but be there just to be Karen’s love interest. Also the book’s ambiguous title is explained on the last page of the book, which is a kind of a spoiler, but it’s called that for a very good reason.
I’ve read a few more of Erin Kelly’s novel since The Poison Tree which I just haven’t enjoyed as much. Anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl and who is interested in character driven thrillers this is definitely one to check out.
lots of love