book review: Watching Edie by Camilla Way

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WATCHING EDIE by Camilla Way
★★★☆☆
Berkley, 2016

 

I hadn’t known anything about Watching Edie before picking up the audiobook – I only chose it because I enjoyed Fiona Hardingham’s narration of Under the Harrow so much, so I scrolled through her titles before settling on a cover that looked like it might also be a suspenseful thriller. And it was a pretty good choice, for the most part – it’s an interesting story about two friends, Edie and Heather, who were once close in high school but who drifted apart for reasons we don’t find out about until later.

I have a frequent issue with books (especially of the thriller variety) withholding information from the reader for too long; stories kind of meandering along without a hook until there’s a last minute twist played for shock value. And that’s kind of my issue here, but it’s also not really the full extent of it. It’s not that this story was dull; on the contrary it was consistently interesting in a quietly captivating way. But I feel like this book robbed itself of an inherent complexity that the reader should have been grappling with much sooner than 20 pages from the end, when the secret between Heather and Edie is finally revealed.

This twist was harrowing, and nothing like what I’d been expecting. But what was the point in keeping it from the reader for so long? What was the point in writing a decently entertaining but ultimately mediocre story that culminates in this one huge ‘oh my god’ moment, when you could have shown that card much sooner, allowing it to flavor the narrative with depth and complexity as events unfold?

Here’s the impression I got from Watching Edie. I felt like Camilla Way wanted to write a psychologically driven character study about how one traumatic event shaped the lives of two friends. But then someone at some point told her ‘there’s no market for that, you should just make it a thriller.’ So she had to backpedal away from the event that should be at the center of this story, and add all these extraneous details in order to create some sort of air of mystery. I mean, that’s probably not what happened. This was probably conceived as a psychological thriller. But the psychology was done so well and the thriller aspect was so lackluster, it’s hard not to wish she had just gone about telling this story in an entirely different way. That ending and that twist were incredibly hard-hitting and will stay with me, but it felt like Camilla Way just dropped a bomb and walked away, which just feels like a waste when I imagine she would have been so capable of handling the aftermath.

7 thoughts on “book review: Watching Edie by Camilla Way

      • SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

        stop reading everyone who isn’t Hannah

        In high school Edie gets involved with this older boy, Connor, who in the present timeline is no longer in the picture and it’s pretty clear something Bad happened with him – I think the logical conclusion is that Edie and Heather murdered him, because there are also references to ‘that night at the quarry’ and Edie and Heather both leaving town soon after. Edie also wants nothing to do with Heather when she comes back into her life, and it’s clear that it’s mostly out of guilt. It turns out Edie’s relationship with Connor had been abusive, and Heather’s ‘big plan’ which had been referenced a couple of times (the reader expects murder) was actually just Heather taking her savings and moving to London with Edie. But Edie changed her mind and told Connor about the plan, so out of revenge Connor and a group of his friends rapes Heather, and Edie doesn’t report it. I usually hate when thrillers involve rape, but it didn’t feel like it was there just to be a plot twist – suddenly the characters’ actions throughout the whole book made perfect sense and it felt to me like Camilla Way had wanted to write a book ABOUT the aftermath of rape, but it ended up being framed as a twist because of a really dumb narrative choice to keep that information from the reader for too long. I have conflicting thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was frustrating as it actually IS one of the better ways I’ve seen the aftermath of rape handled in a book, I just wish the reader knew exactly what we were dealing with sooner. The book would have been a lot stronger for it.

        Liked by 1 person

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