Absolutely wonderful book. 13 September 2018Bloody amazing read. I was gripped from the first page until the last. I can’t recommend this high enough. Must read. Legeia.
Her Greatest Mistake is told through the eyes of my main protagonist – Eve.
How was Eve born?
Working within the mental health field, including my experience in working with families going through the divorce process, several thoughts struck me. Perhaps most of all, how seemingly perfect relationships can turn so extraordinarily sour. How rational, intelligent individuals can be truly hoodwinked in the early stages of the relationship and how easy it really is to become isolated in a toxic relationship. Eve, as many people caught in abusive relationships is an intelligent, strong woman, yet still she is manipulated and fooled from the outset.
I often found it incredibly frustrating how people would sometimes assume – the person isolated, trapped in such relationships must somehow be weak, naïve, stupid even. This then often lead to judgment which further compounded the isolation, the shame and the guilt those in abusive relationships often felt. Keeping them from speaking out, seeking help.
I also witnessed how perceptions can devastate and pull apart lives. Both those held personally of the world and others and those directed inwards by others. This is a theme running through Eve’s story. She was held prisoner in a world of abuse, a marriage drip fed by abuse, by a truth only known by her. Her perceptual outlook almost sealed her fate. For those looking in, they saw a completely different picture to the one she was forced to live. Eve made detrimental choices in life based on perceptual understandings, then hindsight cruelly judged her on these choices. Through Eve’s plight and her need to protect her son Jack, I wanted to explore this role of perception, the power of something so incredibly subjective.
It is Eve’s love for her son that is the drive and power behind her determination, her resolve to make change. I remember clearly in my psychology under-graduate days, a certain professor telling me – everyone has it them to kill given the right circumstances. I questioned this at the time, as does Eve but then I came to believe as does Eve – given the right or wrong coming together of circumstances, it makes perfect sense. No-one is exempt from this.
All these factors were the making of Eve’s character but most of all I wanted to build a character, an intelligent, strong woman and show how she could feasibly fall prey to an abusive partner but despite the odds she could also demonstrate a powerful need to survive, protect and prevail.
I would nominate this book as probably the best I have read this year which is even more amazing for a debut novel. Breakaway Reviewers.
What was the most difficult thing I encountered in writing Her Greatest Mistake?
Sadly, many of us will know of or will know of, someone who has trodden similar, delicate paths as Eve, maybe even unaware that we do. I honestly found the writing of Eve’s story an extremely emotional one, it felt important to write from her perspective, her voice, not only to give the depth to her character as I wanted, but to somehow offer some justice, if at all possible to those who have suffered in anyway similar. I felt quite a lot of responsibility in getting it right.
This is itself was exhausting at times. I can admit that some of the scenes made me cry for her. I was always aware of the critique it would attract, how could she have been so stupid? Why didn’t she ask for help? Go to the police? Leave sooner? So, I felt an obligation to cover as best I could these potential issues but it’s not always easy to do. We always think we know how we would respond in given circumstances but reality is – we never do know. Paying attention to this was always sitting heavy on my chest especially as I knew from professional experience just how damaging these judgmental voices can harm those who have been or who are involved in an abusive relationship. In the end, I wanted to show strength and hope above all else.
In writing, there is always a learning curve. What would I do differently next time?
I re-wrote HGM several times before I even attempted to submit to my agent. It was very much a learning curve for me. The novel has past and present chapters interspersed through-out, I did this for good reason to show how the past was seeping through into the present. But, I wrote all of the past half first, then weaved the present through it breaking it up into relevant sections. I think if I were to write it now, I would simply allow it to grow organically between chapters.
Also, Eve is a deep thinker and there are a few sections of introspection, at the time this felt important to show her inner processes, especially as she was such a private person and ultimately she was at times trapped in her own mind with only herself to turn to. However, I am also aware that this is not to the liking of all readers. Maybe I would reduce this, or maybe I wouldn’t?
It takes a genius to be able to write a psychological thriller covering the gritty subject of domestic abuse, beautifully, but Simpson has achieved just this. It takes an incredibly talented author to write a novel depicting the female perspective of domestic violence with grace, authenticity, and effective research, but I suspect Sarah’s experience working as a psychologist is responsible for enabling her to write the most realistic portrayal I’ve ever read- and I’ve written one myself.
The prose is eloquent, the sentences crisp, the dialogue sharp, the poetic description spellbinding, and the twist completely unexpected. A definite five star read for me. A book I will treasure on my top shelf of favourite reads for many years to come.
Extraordinarily powerful, this psychological thriller doesn’t just offer the reader the antagonists narrative- a new perspective, but clearly demonstrates the difficulties women face once they have escaped their abuser. Family courts- a law unto themselves, a secret society where media aren’t allowed to tread, and the public are unaware of how brutal the interrogation processes are; no different to a criminal law trial for victims. This could easily have been another survival story, but Simpson offers victims of domestic abuse hope, by proving they can thrive and justice, no matter what form it takes, can prevail, regardless of whether this is via the negatively plagued underfunded serves of CAFCASS or the court system.
This is a must read for anyone who truly wishes to understand the female experience of domestic violence without censor or fluffy padding. L. MullinsA brilliant psychological story of a controlling husband. 23 April 2018
This is the debut novel by Ms Simpson and it was absolutely compelling. I have read a few books where the subject matter is a controlling and evil husband but never one that affected me so much as this one.
It starts with a car crash. Eve and her young son, Jack, have been forced into the car by Gregg, her husband, who deliberately tries to kill them. He leaves them for dead and Eve is not sure whether he has escaped or is dead himself.
Fast forward 10 years and Eve has made a new life for herself in Cornwall with her son who is now a happy and well-adjusted teenager. She is continuing her career as a psychologist but is still haunted by her past.
The book’s chapters alternate between the past and the present. We learn about the first meeting of Eve and Gregg when he was a charming and thoughtful boyfriend whom Eve cannot wait to marry and settle down with despite the warnings of her best friend and her parents. The alternate chapters are set in 2016 and describe Eve’s current life.
I found this alternating between the past and present really absorbing because the author builds up the terrifying way her marriage goes completely wrong, chapter by chapter, but then switches to the present where her apparent happy life begins to be threatened yet again. She starts to receive silent telephone calls and realises that someone has been in her house. She senses the presence of her ex-husband and is terrified that he is back to finish what he tried to do in the car crash.
The plot of this book is brilliant enough but as Eve is a practising psychologist, we learn about some of her cases that she is dealing with, such as self-harming, anorexia and other mental health problems and the way Eve deals with her clients are, I presume, based on cases that Ms Simpson has encountered herself since this is her career prior to becoming an author.
I could not stop reading this book and finished it in a couple of days. The ending has so many twists and turns which just keep you reading desperate to know what has happened.
I would nominate this book as probably the best I have read this year which is even more amazing for a debut novel. I cannot wait for the next book which I understand is due out in 2019, I will be asking my book review club to ensure that this comes to me!
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review