Review: A Single Breath; Lucy Clarke

“The deeper the water, the darker the secrets…” (4 stars)

Source- personal copy

Published March 2014 by Harper

I read the Kindle edition. The paperback is 416 pages 

Beautifully written and engaging throughout, A Single Breath is the kind of novel that holds your attention from the outset and simply refuses to let you go. Sure to appeal to fans of Diane Chamberlain or Heather Gudenkauf, it is a moving portrayal of marriage, grief and secrets with an appealing mystery element running throughout. It was a book that I read in one sitting until late yesterday evening, just so I could uncover its truths. That said, the less the reader knows about it (other than the bare bones summary that is) before picking it up, the better! 

Eva has only been married a mere ten months when her Tasmanian husband Jackson is tragically drowned in a fishing accident off the coast of Cornwall. In the aftermath of his death, Eva searches for closure and travels to Tasmania to meet with Jackson’s estranged family, whom she has never met- including the brother he hadn’t spoken with in years. Jackson’s father seems reluctant to have her there and his brother Saul is downright cagey. Just what can her in-laws be hiding from her? What Eva uncovers however, are some devastating secrets that force her to examine her marriage and make her question whether she ever really knew her husband at all… 

You know what? I remember reading the summary for this book on Amazon simply months ago and thinking that it sounded absolutely riveting, then stupidly I didn’t mark down the title or the author. Of course, when I went back to find it I couldn’t remember anything and spent ages pathetically typing words into search engines in the hope that I would chance upon this book once more. Then, last week I actually picked this title up in the Kindle sale, not realising it was THAT book. I love it when that happens: it’s serendipity. Now however, if I like the sound of a book I bloody well write it down. Lesson learned. 

So yes, this book was pretty riveting to be honest. The characters were well fleshed out and you gained a lot of insight into their lives, growing to genuinely care about them. From the very start of the novel my heart broke for Eva- not only did she have to deal with such an unimaginable, devastating loss, but to then find out that the entire foundations of her marriage were potentially built upon a lie was horrific. Can you imagine firstly regretting all of the time that you didn’t get to have together, to then find yourself questioning the time that you actually did- and its validity? It just doesn’t bear thinking about. The journey that Eva undertakes during this story is an emotional and powerful one and as events are told from her perspective, I found myself admiring and liking her a lot. 

For fear of inadvertently giving away any spoilers, the less said about Jackson the better! You get to know him through a series of flashbacks, which added an interesting dimension to the plot. I found my opinion on him constantly changing, which I guess was the point. The flashbacks were cleverly structured, though I did find myself wondering if perhaps they would give away more than intended… 

Jackson’s family were… interesting to say the least. I have to say though, that I did fall in love with Saul who just sounds like an incredibly yummy specimen of a man. Perhaps it was because he was such an fascinating contrast to his brother, but I loved his loyalty to his father and the way he interacted with Eva. His little house on a remote (fictional) bay in Tasmania… book me on the next plane out there, please! 

I know, it’s not real. But Tasmania itself is and that sounds AMAZING. Must add it to my ‘places to visit’ list. 

Hmmm, other characters? Well, there’s a few that I can’t even mention here, but I can talk about Callie, Eva’s best friend. Oh, to have a supportive, loyal friend like her. The sort of friend that will drop everything and hop on a plane to see you, to spend what would have been your wedding anniversary with you. Sob! The friendship between the girls added a beautiful dynamic to the story and was much needed amidst all of the layers of angst and the secrets and lies. 

So, why only the fours stars? I hear you ask. I did think initially that this would be a four and a half star read, then as I got towards the end I found myself sighing a little bit. I guess my only problem with this book was probably down to the last quarter of it. Again, without giving any spoilers away, it seemed like revelation followed revelation all of a sudden and then the something that I had been anticipating finally happened, leaving me with a sort of ‘oh’ dejected feeling. This sense of predictability/expectation was more down to some of the aforementioned flashback scenes throughout the book- perhaps if those flashbacks hadn’t been there or were written in a different way, they would have divulged less about the context of the story? 

Nicely paced with some lush descriptions of far-off climes and a fascinating insight into the sea, I genuinely think this would make a terrific, escapist holiday read for anyone who enjoys a good, contemporary mystery- predictability factors aside. I would really like to read Lucy Clarke’s debut novel now, which hit the shelves in the UK last year- though again, I might save that for a future holiday.

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