Rebecca Fleet: The House Swap
Published By: Doubleday 3rd May 2018
Buy It : here
What The Blurb Says:
‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’
When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.
On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.
But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .
What I Say:
The House Swap is a novel that I had heard a lot about – Psychological thrillers are everywhere at the moment, each with a unique twist or new take on a genre that is highly popular and always looking for the next new angle or theme.
I have to admit that when I was sent a copy, I did have some preconceived notions about what I would be reading. I also have to say that I wasn’t sure how there was anything different to be said, and was ready to be underwhelmed.
I was absolutely wrong!
The House Swap tells the story of Caroline and Francis, who swap their flat in Leeds for holiday in a house in Chiswick. They are not at a good place in their marriage, Caroline has had an affair with a work colleague, and Francis has been battling an addiction. With Caroline’s mother offering to look after their son, Eddie, the house swap offers them the chance to finally spend some time alone, to work on their marriage.
So far, so normal..until they open the door. The house is exactly that – not a home, but a sparsely furnished house, with little signs of someone living there day to day. The sense of unease that Caroline instinctively feels is played out brilliantly in the understated and calm narrative.
The tension is subtly increased through the novel, and the cleverness of Rebecca’s writing is that you are completely disorientated from the start. Like Caroline and Francis, you know that things aren’t quite right, but also things are not so obviously wrong that you can’t put your finger on it…and that is one of the many reasons why I really enjoyed this story.
As the novel progresses, we go backwards and forwards in time to understand how Caroline and Francis ended up at this fractured point in their marriage. We learn how the choices they made and the secrets they hid from each other means that they are now at a critical point in their relationship, where neither completely trusts the other. I thought that this was also a clever plot device, because I have to admit, I wondered if one of the couple was attempting to get revenge on the other – but I was very wrong..!
With this sense of estrangement, the house now starts to reveal its own secrets; music that means something to Caroline is heard, a bouquet of familiar flowers unsettles her.
From this point on, Caroline and Francis’ world quickly starts to unravel, the couple are increasingly at war with each other, every thought and word between them is examined and evaluated, gestures and reactions are interpreted and misconstrued. As they attempt to work through their issues, any chance of tenderness is destroyed as Caroline realises that the woman across the road she befriends is living with her ex-lover, Carl.
Coupled with this awful coincidence, we are also party to the thoughts and actions of the person who has swapped houses with Caroline and Francis. The truly staggering ease with which that person exacts their revenge is plausible, because they do it in a quiet and controlled way that doesn’t ever seem too extreme or unrealistic. They tap into the things they know will cause the most damage for the couple, such as hijacking their social media, and cutting up family photographs to physically remove Caroline from their gaze. They even attempt to strike up a friendship with Caroline’s mother and son to get closer to Caroline and Francis- the most possibly chilling and calculated move possible, to destroy the most precious thing they have.
However, the difficulty in reviewing a brilliant novel like The House Swap, is that to tell you too much will spoil it for you. Do you need to read this novel? Yes, absolutely! Will you guess who has moved into Caroline and Francis’ flat and is their tormentor? Absolutely Not! I genuinely had no clue, and for me, that it the brilliance of The House Swap and what I want from a novel. I don’t want it to be safe, or for me to work out in the first few chapters what has happened, I want to be thinking about it afterwards too.
As the novel races towards its conclusion, Francis finally meets the person who has made it their lifelong mission to destroy him and Caroline. For me, this was one of the most poignant scenes in the novel. Why? Because you finally understand why this has all happened – and interestingly, that I didn’t hate the person for doing it. It also makes you realise that all actions have consequences, and the far reaching effects of them go way beyond what we can often comprehend at the time.
If you are looking for a very different type of psychological thriller, a novel which cleverly plays with the genre and portrays characters who are flawed, but who are all looking for a sense of peace and resolution, then this is the novel for you. I loved The House Swap, and hope that you do too.
I was given a proof copy of The House Swap, in exchange for an honest review of the book.
Thank you to @PoppyStimpson at Transworld Books for my proof copy and a chance to take part in the brilliant book blog tour.
You can follow Rebecca Fleet here
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