A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, before I become dull to the gripping psychological domestic thrillers, I read Disclaimer. I read this off the back of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, when the genre was fresh and phrases like: “An addictive novel with shades of Gone Girl.” (Sunday Times) or “If you loved The Girl on the Train” (Every paper ever, probably) had substance. Yes, I am officially cynical but don’t let that cloud your judgement of this book.
At the beginning of every book, is a disclaimer. It reads a little something like this: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” Catherine begins to read a book, a book about her darkest secret. The disclaimer has been crossed out. The author is anonymous. The book is independently published. How could they possibly know and who is this person? An intriguing set up, and as a bibliophile I loved the concept of a book at the centre of a book. It’s rather meta and pleasing. Spoiler alert, the disclaimer of Disclaimer is there. This is definitely a work of fiction.
This book relies on the deception of the reader which I don’t mind as long as it’s not forced. It should effortlessly withhold information or be fast paced, interpreted narrative so we never get the full picture rather than an unbelievable, uncharacteristic situation to hide information or changing the character that the first person narrative related to. All examples from books I have a read recently so I know when it is done right and when it is done wrong! Renee Knight has done it right. We have two narrators Catherine, the reader, and the writer. It starts of slow, it does take its time establishing the norm which can be forgiven because when the plot takes off, it takes off!
A great crime has been committed and Catherine has tried to put it all behind her. Despite what is written, we don’t know the trust. Everyone involved with this story has their own interpretation of the book. It’s read by her son. It’s hard to talk about the shades of grey and doubts that the author has managed to create without spoiling the plot and the, dare I say it, twist. Damn it, I hate myself. It’s not about someone who did something wrong. It’s about our own version of events, how we perceive the people around us. To me, it gives the novel a different psychological edge rather than ‘that person’s a psycho’. After all, don’t they say our memories are the product of our imagination. See how I brought the disclaimer back in at the end. That’s me being clever. Me pointing it out makes me arrogant.