Wednesday 3 February 2016

Apple Tree yard - A Review

APPLE TREE YARD by Louise Doughty

From the book blurb …

“Yvonne Carmichael has a high-flying career, a beautiful home and a good marriage.

But when she meets a stranger she is drawn into a passionate affair.

Keeping the two halves of her life separate seems easy at first.

But she can't control what happens next.”

I’m rating this book at 3.5 stars.  It wasn’t so much the story (typical “play with fire – get burned” scenario) that intrigued me as much as the author’s interesting "set up" of the book. 

Ms. Doughty takes a storyline that has been written (and rewritten) before but she cleverly begins the story with a trial – just as a dramatic event takes place -- everyone is sitting in the courtroom with his or her mouth agape when Ms. Doughty suddenly transports the reader back to the beginning of her tale. 

Well played Ms. Doughty!

The story itself was a little slow moving as I learned about the relationship between Yvonne Carmichael and her lover “X” (we later find out his name is Mark), her husband and family and co-workers … but I kept listening (I had the audiobook version) because Ms. Doughty had already clued me in that something unexpected was going to happen.  Just as I was beginning to give up hope of getting back to the scene glimpsed at the beginning Ms. Carmichael threw in a little twist that had me listening with rapt attention once again.  From that point on the book became more interesting.

By the time the trial portion hinted at in the beginning of the book commenced I was well and truly hooked on finding out the outcome.

As I said, well played Ms. Doughty!

Shockingly, I didn’t like any of the characters in this book. 

The story is told from Yvonne’s point of view through the writing a letter which she never intends to mail.  Yvonne struck me as considering herself  “entitled” yet the more I disliked Yvonne for her “everything about me” attitude the more intriguing I found.  By the end of the book I wasn’t sure if I was cheering for her or if I wanted her hung out to dry.

“X” was a narcissistic exhibitionist with delusions of grandeur.

Yvonne’s husband, Guy, had been a naughty husband once and this seemed to turn him into a bit of a doormat … until the end (but I can’t give that away).

All the things that shouldn’t have worked for me somehow did make this book work.

I need to give a proper shout-out to Juliet Stevenson as the reader.  Her narration of this book is a big reason I continued to listen.  Her wonderful portrayal of all the characters, but especially as the voice of Yvonne made me want to listen through to the end of the book.


The youngest child of a senior British army officer, Juliet spent her childhood all over the world, including postings in West Germany, Australia, and Malta.

She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, where she won the Bancroft Gold Medal, and was with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1978 to 1986, playing at England's Royal Court, Stratford and National Theatres.

At the age of thirty, Juliet felt it was time to leave the Royal Shakespeare Company and move on.

After Truly, Madly, Deeply, the biggest British movie of 1991, she was always in demand in the world of film. Her fondness for radio work led to her being voted All Time Favourite Reader by BBC Radio 4 listeners. She also has a name as a activist for feminist causes. Juliet now lives in Highgate, North London, with her partnerHugh Brody, who is a writer, anthropologist and film-maker specializing in Eskimos and hunter-gatherers. They have one daughter, Rosalind, and a son, Gabriel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR ( from her website)

Doughty was born in the East Midlands and grew up in Rutland, England’s smallest county, a rural area that later provided the setting for her third novel, Honey-Dew. She attended Leeds University and the University of East Anglia, where she did the MA in Creative Writing course with Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter. She then moved to London and spent the rest of her twenties in a series of temporary jobs including teaching and secretarial work.

It was her experiences as a temp secretary that provided the material for her Crazy Paving, a black comedy about accidents, Chaos Theory and urban terrorism. That was followed by Dance With Me (1996), a novel about ghosts, mental illness and sexual betrayal, and Honey-Dew (1998), a satire of the traditional English mystery.

Doughty took a dramatic departure with her fourth novel, the internationally acclaimed Fires in the Dark (2003), based on the history of the Romany people and her own family ancestry. It was followed by Stone Cradle (2006) and Whatever You Love (2010).  In 2007, she published her first work of non-fiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her newspaper column of the same name.

She has written major features, columns and cover articles for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and her broadcasting career includes presenting radio series such as BBC R4′s A Good Read and Writers’ Workshop.

She is a regular guest on the radio arts programme Saturday Review. She lives in London.

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