Him by Clare Empson #BookReview #BlogTour


 ‘You’re stuck there, aren’t you? Right at the end. And I wonder if it might help to go back to the beginning, to put everything in some kind of order?’

Catherine has witnessed something so traumatic that she can’t speak. Or won’t speak. The doctors say the only way forward is to look into her past.

 Catherine needs to start with ‘HIM’.

 Fifteen years ago, she met Lucian at university and fell into a passionate love affair. They were meant to be together forever. But something happened. Something that destroyed them.

 Catherine then married someone else and had two children. She moved on – or so she thought. Now Lucian is back, showing her how different her life could have been.

 But going back to the beginning won’t change the ending. In fact, it might be the thing that finally breaks her…

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Clare Empson today, many thanks to the author, Orion Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me.

To the casual onlooker, Catherine would seem to have it all - an adoring husband, two beautiful children and an idyllic country cottage in Somerset. However, something has caused her to become an elective mute, something so traumatic that she has become dissociated from everything around her as she retreats into the memories of her past with Lucian.
The book alternates between the present, four months ago and fifteen months earlier, with the chapters detailing what happened in the recent past also switching between the points of view of Catherine and Lucian. I always enjoy novels with convoluted plot-lines and had no trouble following the various timelines and perspectives which all felt distinct from one another. At first, the Catherine we are introduced to are in hospital seems cold, seemingly choosing not to communicate with her family and friends as she relives the story of her and Lucian. They met fifteen years ago at university and fell deeply and passionately in love with one another. She is away from home for the first time and as the adored only child of two loving parents she is still naive, uncomplicated and optimistic.
Lucian is rich, entitled and urbane but despite being from very different worlds, they understand each other and form what would seem to be an all-consuming relationship. However, just as their happiness seems assured,  Catherine ends it suddenly, without any sort of an explanation and though both move on with their lives, the fire of their love is never truly extinguished. The chapters set four months ago first show Catherine's life with her family after their recent move to the country (and as I live in Dorset, I did enjoy seeing some familiar place names) and it appears blissful but not all is as it seems. She and Lucian are reunited and it is these scenes which are the most illuminating, allowing us to see how the preceding years have shaped both Catherine and Lucian before events eventually lead to her current day predicament.
When they meet again it is immediately apparent that they are still irrevocably drawn to one another and yet there is always an undercurrent of doubt to their reconciliation. Throughout the book there are little hints as to what caused Catherine to leave him so suddenly and I suspect many readers will guess the truth before she realises it herself. As the novel progresses, the ominous feeling that their tentative joy will be short-lived becomes almost overwhelming as something must cause her to withdraw from life. The short chapters and frequent timeline changes meant I raced through the book, completely invested in every stage of their relationship and desperate to discover what momentous event causes her to snap out of life.
Although the complicated relationship between Catherine and Lucian forms the main focus of Him, there is also a fascinating exploration of the juxtaposition between Lucian's tightly-knit group of privileged companions and those who enter their circle but are destined to always remain outsiders. The lives of the immensely wealthy friends brought to mind The Great Gatsby and Vile Bodies - the impressive mansions and decadent parties are ultimately just a veneer as the the struggles and dark secrets of these bright young things eventually prove to be inescapable.
This is an intricate tale of a love affair so obsessive that it is not only Catherine and Lucian whose lives have been defined by it - others become caught in their slipstream, unable to tear themselves away from one or both of them. They cause deep hurt to those around them but despite their flaws, I couldn't help but be drawn to them, their burning passion irresistible even to readers, it would seem. Throughout the book there is an almost oppressive sense of foreboding but even so, the eventual disclosure of the truth proves to be devastating.
Him is probably better described as domestic noir rather than a psychological thriller with the suspense coming not from high octane thrills but from the complex, assured plot which leads to the inexorable unveiling of dark secrets. Clare Empson's bittersweet debut is intelligent and addictive; I highly recommend it.

Him is published by Orion Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Clare is a journalist with a background in national newspapers – small business editor, finance correspondent and fashion at the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Express, freelance for The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard and Tatler amongst others. She currently works as editor/founder of experiential lifestyle website http://www.countrycalling.co.uk.
Facebook  Twitter  Website