I have been looking forward to the release of Parallel Lies by Georgia Rose for quite a while as I am such a fan of her previous work – The Grayson Trilogy. All I can say by way of introduction is this deliciously intriguing novel did not disappoint.
The beauty of Rose’s writing is that it is so understated the action creeps up on the reader, almost like peeling an onion, each layer revealing a new dimension to the novel. The story begins in the village of Crowbridge where on the surface life passes at a gentle pace but there are hints from the onset that things may not be as idyllic as they superficially seem.
This is particularly personified by Rose’s protagonist Madeleine Ross, a twenty four year old single woman. She has made friendships in the village but no-one knows anything about her life before she relocated from London four years earlier. It is Madeleine’s voice that Rose uses to tell her story using first person narrative which is particularly effective. Madeleine demonstrates strength and a knowing self-awareness that draws the reader in immediately.
As the novel unfolds Madeleine’s secrets are slowly revealed as are her insecurities and failings. She grew up with little love or affection and is only able to express her needs through sex. This results in her pursuing a promiscuous and potentially emotionally damaging lifestyle. Despite the fact that she is intelligent and kind she doesn’t feel good enough. She feels the strain of pretending to be a “lovely girl” in the village but fears that if her new friends saw her life away from the village they would no longer like her.
Madeleine is better than she thinks she is and her relationships with the people in the village are a testament to this. In Kourtney, a young working class girl, she sees some of herself and goes out of her way to help her rise above her stagnating origins. She has a sisterly relationship with her neighbour Diane, a wonderfully free spirited woman in her 60s who has earned the reputation of being a witch.
One of the themes of Parallel Lies is poverty and the impact it has on children’s lives. Madeleine grew up in a one parent, dysfunctional home in Inner City London. Her mother was unfit to care for her which meant that Madeleine was left to her own devices and inevitably made bad choices which have led to life-long scars. Rose emphasises however that poverty is not just a big city problem and rural areas have their fair share too. In Crowbridge we meet the ostentatiously wealthy couple Letitia and Ben Pritchard but this is contrasted by Kourtney’s situation as she cares for her alcoholic mother and younger siblings with limited opportunities in the rural village where she was born.
Madeleine’s life changes when she meets Daniel Travers, the nephew of her boss. She is a security consultant for an insurance company and it is when describing Madeleine’s work that Rose demonstrates her skill at building the pace of the story to at times almost heart stopping tension. Through Daniel, Rose creates a new voice and in the chapters that he narrates she employs second person narrative which distinguishes it perfectly from Madeleine’s voice.
Rose uses Madeleine and Daniel’s relationship to explore the theme of trust. Madeleine has previously been unable to enjoy emotional relationships with men as she didn’t know how. Although Rose offers no censure of her protagonist’s life choices it’s obvious that her behaviour is born out of an inability to trust. At the same time Daniel, who prior to working for his uncle has led a feckless existence dropping out of university and unable to hold down a job, has to learn to trust Madeleine to take control of her own life without his interference.
Inevitably Madeleine’s past catches up with her and threatens to put her and everyone she cares about in danger. Relying on her innate intelligence she hatches a plan to free herself and keep everyone safe. Despite a shady past, Madeleine is morally honest and has a good heart but she has many hurdles to clear before she can be who she really wants to be.
One of the many things I like about Rose’s novels is the care and attention she applies to her characters. There are no throwaway characters and consequently the reader really cares about them all. Even the less likeable characters such as Letitia and Tag are presented in such a way that they elicit some sympathy for the insecurities and damage that is propelling their actions. Each of the villagers piques our interest in such a way that should she choose to Rose could tell each of their stories and I would be only too happy to read them.
The lightness of Rose’s touch is the perfect foil for the fact that Parallel Lies carries a serious, hard hitting message about poverty and the impact it has on children. Vulnerable young people being groomed and taken advantage of is a very relevant issue that Rose skilfully taps into. The quote that ran through my mind constantly as I read it was “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” (Frederick Douglass)
Parallel Lies is an intelligent, entertaining read which I devoured greedily in a few days. If you are looking for a thriller with a dark edge then I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.