The Sunday Girl, Pip Drysdale
Anybody thinking the cover of this novel with it's bright pink girly styling, means it's going to be on the light and fluffy side, might want to invest in some brown paper, cover the thing, and read it anyway. THE SUNDAY GIRL is not fluffy, girly fiction, even if the opening salvo makes you wonder about return on the brown paper investment. The central character of this tale, Taylor Bishop, is all millennium styled girl: over-sharing, over thinking, brittle and frequently coming across as daft as a brush. She is, in part, the daft idiotic woman of initial perception, but, as the tale progresses, also resourceful, lucky, some might say opportunistic, and utterly fascinating.
This is the tale of a car crash relationship between abusive, nasty, revolting Angus Hollingsworth and fragile, flighty Taylor Bishop. Abuser and victim straight out of central casting, with some unexpected twists. When Angus does the absolute dirty on Taylor, her response is to study Sun Tze's The Art of War and come up with the ultimate plan to get even. Which she starts to implement, only to find Angus mounting his own counter-insurgency and things just go from bad to worse. It's a case study in a woman getting herself involved with a man that she knows is bad, and not being able to walk away. Although the plan of making Angus suffer has highlights, the point is always whether or not Taylor can carry it off, or whether Angus will work out what's going on, whether his plan will triumph first, and why did she not just leave the scumbag in the first place.
It's addictive reading as you watch this woman that you want to cheer for, worry about, and could happily strangle, battle the force of evil that is the horrible Angus. I can also hear the eye-rolling from here - stereotypical casting / millennium girl daft / bloke nasty / black / white / too much pink. Yeah but no. There's nuance in the cat and mouse game that only reveals itself as the story progresses, there's tension and a lack of predictability that isn't best served by the comparisons with other books. And the tone might be slightly Bridget Jones-ish (to be fair - I managed the first movie and have never felt the slightest compunction to read the books / watch any more), but there's a brittleness and a bravado to the scenario that Taylor finds herself in that lifts it way above the "why does my life suck" sub-narrative that I recall from that franchise.
The first person narration works well in THE SUNDAY GIRL. Of all the people who realise that they just may be about to make a huge mess of everything, Taylor Bishop seems the most self-aware, whilst sticking to her well-honed daft as a brush routine. Her scared brave routine is well supported by a storyline that doesn't lag and isn't padded. Oddly enough there's something quite engaging about Taylor. She's sort of the young woman that we all know, that we all kind of like, and just wish would get their act together and stop doing daft things. One of those inoffensively mildly irritating, if only we'd known what was going on in her life, types. Against that of course Angus is horrible, and his complete lack of any redeeming features is as it should be. There is another man - questionable and imperfect in his own right, in the storyline to compare and contrast.
Cleverly constructed with a light tone, and an approachable central protagonist, THE SUNDAY GIRL explores abuse, victimisation, control and revenge in an accessible, and impressively sneaky manner. After coming to it unconvinced by the cover / the comparisons to other books and franchises, which frankly were a turnoff, I'm happy to report that this is an impressive debut.
The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …
‘Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.’
Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.
Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: ‘Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.’
So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.
Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.