The Move by Felicity Everett: A thought-provoking tale of deceit, desire… and unexpected redemption - book review -
Unsettling, compelling and psychologically astute tale of a rural dream gone horribly wrong.
It was supposed to be a fresh start away from the hustle, bustle and stresses of life in London… but her husband’s promise of a rural idyll is not what fragile, angst-ridden Karen thought it would be.
In fact, the rolling hills and leafy lanes of a small isolated hamlet become the backdrop for a series of sinister events and dramas which expose not just Karen’s insecurities, but the perilous fault lines in her marriage.
Felicity Everett, author of the darkly satirical novel The People at Number 9, casts her sharp eye and analytical writing skills over a relationship in meltdown in this unsettling, compelling and psychologically astute tale of a rural dream gone horribly wrong.
Brimming with insight, menace and claustrophobic intensity, The Move draws readers into a web of secrets, lies and a slow drip of disturbing revelations as Karen and her husband Nick play out their domestic drama.
Karen is driving through a strange landscape into a new life. She has always been a city girl but now she is on her way to a beautiful country cottage, refurbished for her with impeccable taste by Nick, her husband of 19 years.
Moving away from London to the country had never been part of ‘alpha male’ Nick’s game plan but they are making a fresh start after four months of upheaval in which Karen has ‘barely been able to choose what clothes to wear, what meal to eat, what TV channels to watch.’
However, something is out of kilter in the new house, which has been turned from shabby to chic and now looks more ‘like a photo-shoot for Ideal Home.’ And it’s not just the fact that Karen and Nick are ill at ease in one another’s company and that their recent history is far from picture perfect… it’s the whole vibe of the place.
The landscape, breathtaking by day, is eerie by night, and the longed-for peace and solitude is stifling. If the countryside is supposed to be a place of healing, far away from curtain-twitchers, who is the person watching them from the hill, and just who are their new neighbours?
With Karen only recently emerging from a dark place in her life, and cut off from her old friends and family, she can’t help wondering if her husband has plans of his own, and fears that history might be repeating itself…
Everett plays a clever game in this exploration of a marriage breakdown, probing into the corners of the human psyche, and using the imagery of a rural landscape to capture all the uncertainties and artifices employed by a couple whose whole relationship grows more intriguing at the turn of every page.
As Karen’s first-person narrative increasingly employs words like ‘chastened,’ ‘self-disgust,’ ‘panic’ and ‘anxious,’ and she struggles to ‘keep the upper hand’ and ‘stay in control,’ so too do our suspicions and doubts about what is really going on here.
Lead players in this gripping piece of character-driven theatre are undoubtedly Karen and Nick but the supporting cast of friends, neighbours and troubled son Ethan provide an entertaining sideshow to the action, each one adding an extra layer of suspense and complexity to the plot.
Clever, perfectly paced and subtly nuanced, The Move is a thought-provoking tale of deceit, desire… and unexpected redemption.
(HQ, hardback, £12.99)