Book Review - Apple Tree Yard

Apple Tree YardApple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Apple Tree Yard opens in a courtroom. The first-person narrator is on trial for an as yet undisclosed crime.

The entire story is written in flashback, as Yvonne Carmichael narrates a chance encounter with a mysterious man that leads to the events in the courtroom.

Ostensibly the story is intriguing and at points it is quite compelling. It is extremely hard to write in first person, and the constraints of writing in this form shows throughout the book.

It doesn't help that the main character is, as I put it, a simpering pedant. Granted, when have we not looked upon someone we love and thought of them as absolutely beautiful and perfect? Having said that, the writer tries to paint Yvonne and her life as true perfection, while happily throwing sometimes unnecessary curveballs in her path, to make it look like a 'normal' family. There is nothing normal about the Carmichaels, for the simple reason that she is one of the few women to enter the scientific field and stay there, so her life can never be normal.

What makes Yvonne, Yvonne never comes through. There is something so problematic about the way women characters are written, even when they're written by women. They are always passive characters, swept away by the flow of things. They never act, always react. If Yvonne is a rarity in her field, there must have been an extraordinary amount of determination and gumption that got her to where she has. That never comes across. In fact, how and why Yvonne got into her specific field is never explored, whereas a male character's career path is always lovingly spelt out.

I like that this book made me really angry about how the courts treat women's crimes. It does a great job of riling us up, and that is incredibly important.

For the majority of the book, I wanted to claw my eyes out, the writing was so frustrating. And the endless use of 'my love' as an indicative of the other party on trial really made me want to tear the book apart (I couldn't, as it was office property).

I understand Doughty worked pretty hard in making the courtroom scenes credible and believable. But there is just so little I could like about this book. Unbelievably and stupid characters, cliched plot twists, poor writing. It's close to being a disaster, but isn't.

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