Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Annabel Kantaria
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 456, Price: Rs 340
The title of this novel made me instantly want to know how the tale unfolds. Because, yes, as the cover says ‘Everyone has one. An ex you still think of’. I anticipated a romantic story of lost love finding its way back to where it truly belongs. A book that which would make me go ‘awww’ at the end, but I was in for a bit of a surprise. That’s what happens when you’re too eager to jump in and don’t read the back cover more closely, which does clearly state something more jarring awaits. Jarring enough that after many months, I have sat up all night and finished reading 400+ pages in 4 hours flat. I just couldn’t put this one down.
Annabel weaves an intricate web with words, and before you know it you are hanging on desperately to know what happens next. And she does this through suitably placed yet subtle cliffhangers that propel you to read on ‘just a little more’. Before you know it you are too far gone to stop. What helps is the attention to descriptive detail of setting that transports the reader right into London and drops you in the middle of these intimate spaces the characters explore.
Her lead characters are George and Stella, high school sweethearts whose relationship as we discover ends abruptly and painfully. George has moved on and married while Stella is still single. He is the classic, high-rolling, successful jerk who thinks he is God’s gift to women. It is implied that he is a womaniser and a playboy, who can’t help but want to have his way with the many women who seemingly all want a piece of him. He has the looks the charm, the money and smooth operator skills to make him irresistible. Stella owns and runs London’s largest private catering business with a well-respected to match. She’s a quiet one though, preferring to be away from the spotlight, where George clearly loves to bask.
The 15-year high school reunion that brings George and Stella face to face is where the story begins. The chemistry too intense to deny, it doesn’t take long for things to become steamy and then naturally progress into messy as these things usually do. Though on the surface things seem rosy and bright, Annabel very gently starts to slap on layers of muck, that Stella and George start to get entrenched in. The gem of this storyteller is that no one — neither the protagonists nor the reader can see it, just yet. As a reader, once you begin to suspect, you realise how extraordinary and dangerously unnerving things are becoming at the same time. And how helpless you are to do anything about it.
Exploring this darker side of love in a rather crafty manner, the author makes you wonder and anticipate what will happen next. The pace of events and the very appealing narrative style with alternates between each protagonist’s perspective really lets you get into their minds. You are experiencing their journey and inner turmoil first-hand which makes this for an extremely gripping read. Feeling in the thick of things, I felt if I reached out just a little I could talk to them and sway them according to my will. A psychological thriller with twists you don’t see coming well till they jump up in your face, The One Who Got Away keeps you tense and finger-biting till the very end.