Free Press Journal

Behind Her Eyes: Review


Title: Behind Her Eyes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Pages: 373
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Price:  UK £12.99

Now, some of you might ask, “what’s  the big deal?” and say, “Of course a triangle has an angle- in fact, it has three!” Others will realise that there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and perhaps with a quiet chuckle perceive that it’s a triangle with a twist. That is true, but it is not the complete truth. And contained in that terse little leading statement — or title – is my secret, my knowledge of the ending; the final denouement, shared only with those who have read the book. It is also a hint for all those who like to go mystery-solution hunting. But I am prepared to bet that few —  in fact I can safely say hardly anyone – will guess the truth till they literally stumble upon it at the end; and that too only because the author chooses to give up the body, so to speak.

So. Getting back to the book. No prizes for guessing it is the story of the seemingly age-old triangle: David a handsome, successful psychologist/psychiatrist; his beautiful ethereal wife Adele; and his single-parent receptionist Louise, divorced and mother of six-year Adam.

From the beginning, it is apparent that all is not well with the David-Adele marriage. There is a secret that binds them – but also tears them apart. Originally from Scotland, they have come to London for a “new start”.  What does the past contain?

Louise has a part-time job at the mind clinic where she works three days a week, takes care of her son whom she loves to bits and for the rest is alone and lonely. No surfing the date sites on internet. No mind space for men at the moment. A chance meeting with  David sees the chemistry between them ignite into flames. They talk, they laugh, they kiss –  but he pulls back and they go their separate ways.

The next day when Louise is at work,   David and Adele walk in and are given a tour of the clinic. He is the new partner of the practice and her new boss.  Recognising “the man-from-the-bar”, as she thinks of him, and thoroughly embarrassed; and also feeling completely intimidated by the beauty and elegance of the slim, gorgeous wife by his side, Louise dives into the restroom to emerge only after they have left.

The next day David comes to the office and after an initial tense scene between them, they settle down to work together. Soon after, Louise literally bumps into Adele who invites her for a coffee and a new chapter begins.

Louise is hopelessly attracted to  David. She is equally fascinated by Adele. She loves and needs them both in her life. As the contretemps with David blooms into a full-fledged affair, her friendship with Adele blossoms and deepens.

A situation which cannot carry on for any length of time- about this Louise is clear.   She is riven and torn with guilt but every time she resolves to give up one or the other; confess to David that she is friend of his wife something crops up to prevent her from doing so.  Adele on her part knows that Louise is her David’s receptionist but entreats her to keep their relationship hidden from her husband.  As she gets more and more involved with David physically and emotionally, Louise gets more and more embroiled in Adele’s problems.

Behind this seemingly everyday story is the tension and mystery of David and Adele’s marriage. There is incipient rage and violence in that relationship, from the outset — that much is clear. Why has David stopped loving Adele?  But then, what keeps them together? What is the secret which binds them?

As layer upon layer is peeled back,   the reader pushes one veil aside only to come up against another. Slowly, the chilling story unravels. Black becomes white, white turns to black and both are surrounded by a grey shroud that is the past.

Adele’s parents have died in a fire from which David has saved her at 2 am in the morning. Was it a result of an accident or arson? Does her estate back in Scotland hide a secret?

Is David a drunken, violent maniac or is Adele a psychotic sociopath? The questions surface; you might have one answer in one chapter, another in the next.  For Louise at least it is certainly a roller-coaster ride as she painstakingly works her way through the mess to get to the truth.

You might think you know some – or even all — of the answers, you might even think you have solved the mystery.

But it is only when the author chooses to lay bare the bones of the story; only when you see it from “Behind Her Eyes”, so to speak, that you can actually grasp the full picture.  And then it comes as a punch in the gut. Leaves you gob-smacked. And, what is more, the end leaves you chilled.

Like a consummate witch, Sarah Pinborough has left a crumb-trail from the first page as she leads you tantalisingly down the dark paths of love and obsession. But you don’t pick on them till they are revealed and you go back to  pick up the trail afresh.

Behind Her Eyes is a compelling read as much for its well-woven plot and story; as for the complete control in its unravelling.