This intriguing novel by T. A. Cotterell tells the story of Alice, a faithful wife, whose love for her husband is sorely tested by his indiscretions one night. Set in the Bristol area, it follows on the footsteps of other novels I have read this year set outside of the Metropolitan hub-bub of London such as Oxford for We All Start As Strangers and the grim drabness of Manchester in Sirens.
Alice is a portrait artist, married with two children beloved in the area and a model of maternal nature. This is put to the test by her husband's may or may not be adulterous behaviour which may or may not have led to the death of a flirtatious admirer.
The novel hopes to be a gripping thriller in the same vein of keystone texts such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and yet this was a book this reader found hard to get through. The combination of somewhat implausible plotting, the hysterical nature of the faithful wife losing her mind and sometimes unnecessary art history lessons.
By the final 70 pages when Alice goes to visit her mother do you understand the psychology of Alice fully in that she wants to please everyone and people take advantage of her grace from her bitter mother to her awful siblings who live far away from her as well as the home in Scotland.
The ending felt a bit contrived and rushed unfortunately, but then again the plodding nature of the plot to begin with perhaps the writer wanted to get away from these characters he created. A potential pivotal standoff with an old school mate for Alice when she paints her portrait is handled muddily and instead makes Alice even more vulnerable and this weakness does not enforce our sympathy but instead pity; not something you ever want to extend to someone.
At times the book felt like it wanted to say so much, but was unable to due to the weakness of the protagonist and the ending where she attempts to fall on her husband's sword is both ill timed and messy.
A shame after a strong opening that this book could not maintain the focus nor the attention of this reader.
What Alice Knew is released in Hardback/Paperback by Black Swan (Goldsboro Books) on 4th May