Tuesday 11 April 2017

New life not all it's cracked up to be

The Expats I found Chris Pavone's The Expats in a list of thrillers on the Dead Good Books website and bought it because the protagonist, Kate, is an expat mum. Knowing a bit about expat life, I was interested to see how that aspect was portrayed.

Kate experiences the problems of finding herself in a new place and having to make new friends, few of whom have even remotely similar interests or experiences that she can relate to. The life she now lives is banal, her days are monotonous, and her chief roles of child-carer and home-maker are dull. Her IT security expert husband, Dexter, works late and travels often, and the mysterious, childless couple Julia and Bill are unnerving.

Most of the action takes place in Luxembourg, somewhere I've never been to, and based on the weather described in the book, it's somewhere I can't see myself ever visiting. You get a feel for the stiflingly limited expat social life of the place, and Kate's need to escape from it regularly.

Written from Kate's point of view, the story deals with secrets that people keep from their closest partners, how that can affect relationships, and the difficulty in deciding if and when to open up. It also deals with Kate's loss of self when she gives up her job - her past ruthlessness, composure and attention to detail give way to compassion, anxiety and incompetence.

Before clicking to buy, I read one or two comments about the story's flashbacks. Although it took the first chapter to get used to it, I didn't mind the shifting time. It worked because it gave prominence to the changes in Kate's character by juxtaposing the decisions she made "today" with those of her past life.

It wasn't difficult to guess what was going on in the story, and I don't think the author was necessarily trying to baffle the reader. The enjoyment was in seeing the story unfold.

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