Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill - Review

The question isn't whether our memories are false - it's how false are our memories?

The Betrayals is an intriguing story about a fractured family and the fallibility of memory.  When self-deluding Nick - an expert on memory formation, ironically - leaves his wife, cancer specialist Rosie, for her friend Lisa, the effect on daughter Daisy in particular is traumatic. Years later, a letter from Lisa triggers a relapse in Daisy's mental state. Brother Max, meanwhile, is haunted by guilt about his own hidden role in what happened.

The book does require careful reading to grasp what is going on, as everyone's accounts differ slightly (as Daisy quotes from Kazuo Ishiguro, acknowledging the unreliable nature of memory - "This was all a long time ago and I might have some of it wrong."). There were times when I was unsure I fully understood all the implications of what was happening. I'm still not sure I understand the point of one or two minor characters. However it all (mostly) comes together and delivers a genuinely surprising ending.

Where this book really shines though is in the portrayal of Daisy's OCD - a widely misunderstood and trivialised condition - and the catastrophic effect of this on her and those around her, particularly brother Max who becomes reluctantly embroiled in her rituals. This really does represent the complex, insidious and horribly destructive nature of the condition, and as someone who has a close family member with OCD - albeit not quite the same as Daisy's - I appreciated this very much.

Lisa's rejection of conventional treatment for her cancer in favour of the - to put it nicely - mumbo-jumbo purveyed by the appalling Gregorio is also depicted very well.

All in all an interesting and valuable read which does repay close attention. Recommended.

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