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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fish-hook, Line and Sinker!
This was a superb piece of writing; an edge of the seat courtroom drama with twists and turns of back-story, believable and necessary blind alleys and secrecy, and lots of dark undercurrents about relationships between the sexes, the casual violence and patronisation even other women can offer to each other.

There is little which can be usefully laid out in a...
Published 15 months ago by Lady Fancifull

versus
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite deliver
This is a page turner of a book that has some very unexpected twists, so I'll keep my description vague. Yvonne Carmichael is a successful geneticist who has been married for many years. One day she meets a stranger and impulsively begins an affair with him. Soon she becomes obsessed with her lover, despite the fact that they are both married and he is highly...
Published 8 months ago by Julia Flyte


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fish-hook, Line and Sinker!, July 26, 2013
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard (Kindle Edition)
This was a superb piece of writing; an edge of the seat courtroom drama with twists and turns of back-story, believable and necessary blind alleys and secrecy, and lots of dark undercurrents about relationships between the sexes, the casual violence and patronisation even other women can offer to each other.

There is little which can be usefully laid out in a review without spoiling the reader's journey. All I will say is that it took quite a long time for me to really realise why the central character was in that court as a defendant in a murder trial. None of Doughty's journey red-herrings were at all spurious, and the various shocks she offers are absolutely tight, believable and coherent.

Several reviewers have compared her grasp of believable psychological twisting of the reader, unfurling of character and plot, to Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell in darker, more disturbing psychological mode) For once, such an admiring comparison is accurate.

I've been disappointed recently in several sub-psychological crime/thrillers, but recommend this highly. Doughty does not manipulate any of her characters in an unbelievable way.

As long as you accept the premise that the madness of love and lust can strike any of us and make us go places which are surprising, all the rest follows

I like the elegant structure of the book which in the major sections, connects to the work of the central character, a geneticist, and how what is hidden, twisted, subterranean in the journey of the novel echoes that double helix.

This is a perfect summer (or winter holiday) read, but also leaves you thinking.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect psychological thriller to start 2014, January 3, 2014
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I cannot think of a better way to start 2014. Louise Doughty nailed it perfectly with her flawless prose, superb character development and her original storyline. Apple Tree Yard delivers a literary thriller, psychologically nuanced with a compelling courtroom drama all expertly combined to make for a page-turning journey.

In the prologue we learn that Yvonne's (Y ) and her lover (X) are on trial. and their fates will be determined in the dock of Old Bailey in London We initially are not aware of what the charges are against them. This we learn as Yvonne begins the twisting and winding course that has brought her to this crossroads.

Yvonne Carmichael is 52 year old Geneticist at the top of her game. She is happily married and has two grown children. While she has lived through heart-break she is in control of her life. That is until her chance meeting with a charismatic and secretive man in the House of Parliament, turns into a precarious affair. As Yvonne tells her lover in this cautionary tale, this can happen to anyone.

"I need you to know this was not normal for me, and if you
had tried a year before or a year later, or simply when I was
in a different mood, it would never have happened. You caught
me at the precise moment I was ripe for it."

Unfortunately, the affair leaves Yvonne vulnerable to receiving justice for an act of violence that is not her fault. Yvonne's story is cleverly told in the first person narrative, as if she is speaking to her lover. Very similar to the novel "sister" which was told in the form of an open letter.

I cannot imagine anyone not liking this novel. Perhaps the difference between a 4 or 5 star review depends on how you feel about Yvonne. Yvonne is an intelligent woman with very human traits. Perhaps because it is written so believably in the first person, you can feel exactly what she is going through. While Yvonne makes some questionable judgment choices, she makes us understand why and how easy it can be to break our own moral codes in the face of temptation. Regardless of the ill-advised circumstances that unfold throughout this story nothing is ever black and white. A page-turner that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Psychological Mystery, December 20, 2013
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard: A Novel (Hardcover)
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What makes this an effective mystery, in my view, is that it is delivered to the reader by a clever device: it’s as though Yvonne is telling the story and her background to her lover. In that way, information is revealed in drips and drabs, she drops hints about pertinent events in her past that she’ll get around to talking about later, and the timeline jumps all over the place for most of the story. I think this was a smart decision on the author’s part because the reader is constantly wondering what’s going on, what is the nature of the criminal act with which Yvonne and her lover have been charged, how they went from embarking on a risky affair to being on trial, and of course, how it’s all going to end.

When you’re reading this, you feel compelled to keep turning the pages to find out the answers to all of those questions. The journey on which Louise Doughty takes her readers is one filled with darkness, yearning, infidelity, love (or obsession) at first sight, betrayals, revenge, and violence. It offers a peek into the mind of a middle-aged wife and mother as she makes the choice to have an affair, why she believes she made that choice, and its repercussions. It also eventually becomes a very interesting study of a court case, as we’re given the chance to see the ins and outs of the trial- the prosecution’s strategy, the problems that come with having two defendants each having their own representation, stall tactics, and a fair amount of surprise testimony.

There are a lot of twists (most of which are actually intriguing) throughout this story, up to the very end, and I give the author a lot of credit for writing a mystery with the power to truly keep readers guessing, because that is quite a feat in today’s day and age.

As much I thought the overall mystery and the relaying of most of the information was well-done, I had a rather big problem with a major component of the book, i.e. the characters. I just didn’t like any of them. There were times when I could feel some sympathy for one or two of them, but by and large, I found them to be incredibly self-centered and cold individuals who did terrible things. That issue originates largely from a decided lack of character development for everyone, and that is most apparent with Yvonne. She goes through a number of life-altering events over the course of the story, and she doesn’t learn a thing, she just winds up seeming obsessed and weak, and for such a bright woman, she makes umpteen terrible decisions and overlooks so many obvious red flags along the way that I found myself questioning her intellect at several points.

That, for me, was the most significant flaw in an otherwise well-crafted story. All in all, yes, the book has its problems, but I think its positive attributes outweigh them. This is a truly engrossing read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-crafted mystery.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite deliver, February 11, 2014
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard (Kindle Edition)
This is a page turner of a book that has some very unexpected twists, so I'll keep my description vague. Yvonne Carmichael is a successful geneticist who has been married for many years. One day she meets a stranger and impulsively begins an affair with him. Soon she becomes obsessed with her lover, despite the fact that they are both married and he is highly secretive. When something unexpected and shocking occurs in her life, the stakes will rise and events will spiral out of her control.

I liked the book but it didn't hang together for me. For starters, I didn't buy into the relationship between Yvonne and her lover. (The book is written as if she is talking to him, so we don't discover his name until very late in the piece. She even addresses a text to him as "Dear You" which struck me as ridiculous - given that we will find out his name eventually, why be so mysterious about it?) He was so obviously a serial adulterer who was taking advantage of her, and it infuriated me that she couldn't see that or if she could, that she didn't care. Nor did I believe that he would do the things that he does later in the book, given the nature of their relationship.

Another structural issue was the prologue, which adds little to the book other than giving away something which would otherwise be a source of suspense and tension. The ending is also dragged out - almost everything is resolved, so it's obvious that there is going to be one final reveal, and there is really only one thing that it could be.

This is a gripping story and the novel holds your attention, but ultimately it doesn't deliver quite as much as it promises too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal and compelling, February 13, 2014
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This review is from: Apple Tree Yard: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Louise Doughty is a writer with several works already in print. After reading her intelligently written Apple Tree Yard, I will be seeking out her past work, and her future work. It is a compelling piece of fiction based on real life occurrences. Doughty observed a court case and interviewed police in order to craft an interesting courtroom/crime drama. But her infusion of introspection and suspenseful storytelling make this a truly original thriller.

Yvonne is a woman on trial for murder. Her mundane life took a wicked turn once she started an affair with a mysterious and seductive man she met randomly one day. How she got from such an innocuous life as a wife, mother and scientist to an adulterous defendant is told through Yvonne. She reflects on the wild twists and turns with the keen and rational eye of a scientist. The work is so cerebral at times, it is difficult to remember this is a thriller!

Doughty speculates on the stories we create for our selves and others. How we perceive our selves and how that is contradicted by the stories formed by others. This contrast of perception is the most intriguing. The mystery aspect of how and why lends so beautifully to this complex story telling style.

There are sections of the book that are difficult to read. Without giving away the plot, I will say it is graphic and unsettling. There are also graphic depictions of sex and violence, which were also unpleasant. Doughty is a gift writer and excellent with imagery, but in these instances I found it too intense. I do understand the necessity though.

Do not let the adjective describing this book as "erotically charged" keep you away. I was hesitant to pick up this book because of that phrase. I was worried it meant soft core porn wrapped loosely in a mystery dust jacket. But Doughty elevates the tragic and trashy aspects of adultery to become a discourse on individuals, honesty, and perception.

I really enjoyed reading this book. This is a wonderful mystery, drama, thriller, work of fiction. I highly recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The lure of the louche, February 11, 2014
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A woman impulsively submits to a sexual encounter with a stranger, in the corner of a public space, and immediately becomes entrenched in an illicit and ultimately sordid affair with this man. As readers we watch her become more and more in thrall to her projected fantasies. The fact that this is played out on the fringes of the rarified world of government adds to the sense that the protagonist has lost her moral bearings. The upshot is predictably humiliating.

The writing was good; perhaps the characters could be more fleshed out. At the end, i knew what had transpired and how the lives of these characters (there are really only two) unraveled but i never quite understood why the murky waters into which she stepped were so compelling.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Page Turner!, February 11, 2014
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A real page turner! Doughty starts to build the tension with the opening paragraphs and doesn't let up until the very end. Great insight into how we fool ourselves and rationalize our choices. Recommended for fans of psychological mysteries.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking, intelligent page turner, February 7, 2014
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I couldn't put this book down.

This is a mystery but it is not purely about plot and action and twists and turns. There is that, but I don't think the premise of the story is all that original nor is the murder the central point of the book. This is not Gone Girl or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There is courtroom drama and you want to know why the woman is being tried for murder and what the verdict is going to be, but what appealed to me was that it was in equal or greater part a psychological study of a woman at midlife who is trying to find connection, intimacy, and some sense of satisfaction in her life.

Yvonne is 52 and a successful academic, a wife in a long-term marriage, and the mother of two grown children, one of whom has bipolar disorder and with whom she has a tenuous relationship. She is one half of a dual career couple who had taken on the lion's share of child-raising and housework. She has chosen to stay in a marriage despite the hurt she has experienced and the fact that she and her husband have not made love in years. She is someone who has noticed the changes in her body and the changes in her sense of self and purpose once her children have grown. It is at this juncture in her life that she makes that split second decision to follow a stranger into the basement of a chapel to have sex with him.

I found Yvonne's voice - which is addressed to "you," her lover, throughout the book - to be intelligent, honest, intimate, and engaging, and this is what pulled me in. It was like being in a long, intimate conversation with a close girlfriend.

She makes bad choices and yet somehow I was sympathetic toward her. She is flawed and she knows it. Despite being highly educated and successful she shows vulnerability and fear. I saw myself in her in many parts, and I saw my women friends as well.

I also found the pacing effective. Yvonne tells her story in retrospect so here and there are expressions like, "Later I will realize how differently things would have turned out had I chosen to stay instead of leave" (paraphrase), hinting at what is to come. Some of the details in the last section of the book - the trial - were slightly less interesting for me than the first 2/3 of the book but overall the book sustained my interest from beginning to end, to the very final page, where there is a little bit of a surprise. Honestly it is not always that I am satisfied with the beginning, middle, and end of a book, but for me this book delivered.

A satisfying read that is not chick lit especially for women, for those in mid-life, and for those who enjoy a mystery that is not just about plot and action.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start but eventually took off for me, February 1, 2014
By 
sb-lynn (Santa Barbara, California United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Apple Tree Yard: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This story is narrated by Yvonne Carmichael, a 52 year old respected geneticist who lives in London with her husband Guy. Guy is also a scientist and the two of them have a son named Adam and a daughter named Carrie. Adam has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and has had problems for a long time and lives a rather unstable life away from the family, whereas Carrie is now a successful scientist, engaged to be married.

From the very start in the Prologue we see that Yvonne is a defendant on trial in the Old Bailey, though we don't know why or what she is charged with. We also know that a lawyer has asked her a question about a location called Apple Tree Yard and this has completely shaken her composure. It is only near the end of this novel that we find out why.

After the short Prologue, we go to the first chapter where we go back a year or so in time. One day, after speaking at a government committee, Yvonne notices a man she finds attractive talking on his cell phone and shortly afterwards as she is walking she notices he is following her and they strike up a conversation. In a action that is totally contradictory to everything she knows about herself, Yvonne allows herself to be seduced by the man as they go and have sex in a old plastered over building called the Crypt Chapel.

The normally placid and staid Yvonne finds herself swept away by this relationship as their affair continues; often in tawdry and risky locations.

I don't want to give away more because I think it's important to find things out as the author intends, but something bad happens to Yvonne. Gradually we learn what has happened to land Yvonne in court and why she was so shook up with the questioning about Apple Tree Yard.

Although it took me a while to get into the novel (I found the first person POV laborious at times) by the time I was midway through I was hooked. If you find yourself faltering I recommend hanging in there because I do think there is a nice payoff at the end and the book really does pick up the pace.

I was very much impressed with the courtroom scenes. I was a criminal attorney and know my way around a courtroom and I thought the scenes that took place in the courtroom seemed spot-on, despite the fact I never practiced in a British court; the feel and the straggles and decorum and the objections all seemed right.

My biggest problem and this may be unique to me, was that I just never cared that much for Yvonne and I found myself particularly frustrated with her later on in the book for certain nondisclosures to her own attorney. I just thought she was too smart for some of her actions and alas, found myself at times rooting against her. I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to go there...

Still, I thought there were some fun twists along the way and some interesting psychological insights to help us understand how someone like Yvonne could get caught up in this affair. The courtroom action was really stellar and I thought the Prologue was a perfect way to start.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a delicious apple, December 29, 2013
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This review is from: Apple Tree Yard (Kindle Edition)
This book was on my recommended read list for some time and I kept putting it off because I really did not feel like it was going to be all that different from many other books. I should have followed my gut instinct.
The story starts in court discussing "Apple Tree Yard" and to be honest - kind of spoils the plot and makes the rest of the book feel tedious and superfluous.
Yvonne is a modest, average (but intelligent) mid 50's woman whose husband has had an affair and her children are off living their lives (and are not really that emotionally close to her). She seems bored and out to prove a point and in pops Mr "X" to sweep her off her feet and bring some mystery into her life.
This book is really very average in a way that makes it believable I guess. It does not leave you gasping for more as you turn the page, it does not lurk in dark corners and jump out and surprise you, it really is just a gentle stroll around a marriage and career and motherhood that is no longer working any magic and how a chance encounter and spontaneous decision can unravel the tightest knot.
Yes this book makes you stop and think and yes it addresses issues that many long term relationships face - but did it sparkle? Did it woo me and keep me up turning pages and falling in love with the characters (or even falling out of love with them)? Unfortunately not. A book to borrow not to buy.
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Apple Tree Yard: A Novel
Apple Tree Yard: A Novel by Louise Doughty (Hardcover - January 14, 2014)
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