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Showing 1-10 of 59 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 87 reviews
on July 17, 2012
It's a good thing I'm on vacation, as I read this book in one sitting, staying up far too late last night to finish it. From the first few pages, I was sucked in, as much by the author's descriptive and sometimes even lyrical prose as by the desire to see where the narrator (and main character) ends up.

The writing was so beautiful and evocative, and such a part of the pleasure of the novel, that I had no trouble resisting my usual habit of speed-reading. The author is particularly skilled at conveying place and atmosphere with clever turns of phrase, to the point where I found myself easily able to see and feel the homes in the book, the streets, the people, the weather.

The story is as much about the development of the narrator as it is about what happens to all the rest of the characters. Yes, there are a few holes in the plot, a few questions that are left unanswered. When did Frances' ambitions first take root? What really drew her into the Kyte family's lives? Certain elements of the story insinuate that Frances had a level of interest in the Kytes long before the initial dramatic incident, but we are left wondering. What was her attraction to them? Was it pure ambition? If so, then it would be extremely unlikely that someone with that much skilled ambition would have been content to plod along for the first 35-ish years of her life. The chance encounter that we are supposed to believe propelled Frances to change so dramatically, from a nondescript plodder into a wise and extremely adept manipulative schemer, is just not fleshed out well enough to supply the motivation necessary for such a change. And of course, because it IS such a chance encounter, it feels even more contrived. If Alys and Frances could have been brought together in another way, where we could better feel Frances' growing fascination with Alys and desire to become Alys, the book would have held together a lot better.

Still, this was an extremely enjoyable read. In addition to the lovely and skilled descriptive writing, I was drawn to watching how the character developed and changed, seemingly before my very eyes. Great book.
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on October 22, 2013
The book started out very strong but I must have missed something along the way as it was confusing as to why Frances went after Laurence. I never got that she was trying to "snag" him for herself
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on February 2, 2015
Who hasn't fantasized about morphing into someone else? preferably someone gorgeous, admired, successful, powerful and loved. Some people just fall right into the a lucky situation while others need to slog it out and fail. Frances, a 35ish copy editor has spent decades observing successful people. Quiet, subtle and unassuming Frances connives and finally weasels her way into the lives of the Kyte family - the family of a celebrity author that she meets quite by accident. How Frances succeeds in doing this is what drives the novel.
Everything falls into place very conveniently. Too conveniently but this still makes a fun read. Well written, subtle and vastly entertaining I look forward to Harriet Lane's third novel. I highly recommend Her, for another fun read.
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on August 20, 2012
I enjoyed reading this book and found it mysterious. However, that said, I found the end disappointing. I kept waiting for something big to happen, instead find out that Frances is a creep. Hard to explain I just somehow felt let down at the end.
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on August 29, 2015
Harriet Lane writes a specific type of psychological suspense: there are no crazy, axe-weilding characters, there are no tragic pasts of abuse and trauma, there is no blood and gore and there are no two characters gripped in a complex web of psychological combat.

Because Harriet Lane is too sophisticated for that. Her suspense lies in the average person quietly, but intentionally seizing an opportunity to exploit or manipulate another for their own benefit...often without the target ever knowing.

It is the secret between the reader and the protagonist: you are in collusion. Because you root for this character, even as you feel discomfort (and disbelief) for what you see them do, the chances that they take, the ends to which they aspire. We already know to fear the crazies and the psychopaths. But Ms. Lane teaches us that there are dark depths to that average-looking girl you sat next to on the subway; depths that you might want to be wary of. Or terribly, terribly afraid.

The story is civilized - it is a pleasure to live in this world, and, like the protagonist, you don't want to lose it. But old-world rules of civility rule here, don't startle the other characters, or they'll bolt and you'll be left with nothing. So it becomes a slow stalking of the goal...adjusting for set-backs, flinging the net wide and drawing it in slowly....until, in the end, you realize that what you have done (because you want the protagonist to win) is to play with other peoples lives in ways they would never let you...if you had been honest with them.
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on June 6, 2015
At the start of this story, protagonist Frances comes upon a car turned on its side with the injured driver, a woman, trapped within. Frances quickly phones for help. She then stays with the woman, Alice Kite, giving her words of comfort and encouragement while awaiting arrival of the ambulance. Frances later learns that the woman did not survive the accident; later yet, she learns that "Alice Kite" was actually Alys Kyte, the wife of a famous and successful author.

Up until this point, Frances has been the invisible woman, both personally and professionally. When the dead woman's family is interested in meeting Frances, she uses this "in" as her chance to appear connected in the literary world. In her job with the books column of a newspaper, she has not been noticed--but with a link to the Kyte family, her stock rises.

As the book moves forward, we see Frances ruthlessly capitalizing on each opportunity that springs from her association with the Kytes. She obviously wants to maximize the situation. As the reader, I asked myself: WHAT is she doing? I soon realized that Frances saw her opportunity and wanted to use it, exploit it--to move ahead into another social and professional stratum. And sometimes, her tactics (always secretive) are ruthless.

Most readers see Frances as overly ambitious and manipulative. Well, perhaps. But initially, she is locked into her "invisible" status. When a unique opportunity presents itself, Frances hitches her wagon to a star and works it with zeal. And who can blame her? But what emerges is a hard success-focused mindset, with Frances negotiating her path inward (with the Kytes) and subsequently upward.

As a fan of whodunnits, about half-way through I asked myself: WHERE is the mystery? Then I realized that I was right in the middle of it! The dark corridors that enclose the transformation of Frances from a mousy nobody to a driven opportunist form a mysterious and complex labyrinth of the mind. As her true nature is exposed, the reader's attention is heightened. I wondered how far her ambition would push her. It turned out that Frances, herself, was doing the pushing.

Harriet Lane's writing is impeccable. So many times I'd come across a cluster of words, a sentence or phrase, and I'd be amazed at her talent for expression. I had already read the author's book HER, and I was impressed to the point of wanting to continue reading. This book, Alys, Always is a reader's delight. No less than 5 STARS for this mesmerizing study of the dark side of ambition.
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on April 6, 2015
I found the main character cold and calculating. I could not find one redeaming quality. So, how can the reader get past that?
SPOILER alert! I expected her to get her comeuppance at the end and felt totally deflated when that was not how it played
out.
What was the message?
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on September 3, 2012
I read a lot of books and don't always remember what they're about, but I do remember Alys, Always. It has an original plot and carries it out credibly. Characters believable, original, and the ending worked for me. I'd be apt to read anything else written by the author.
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on April 12, 2015
I have given this book 5 stars because of the way it held my interest. Is there anything more compelling to the human psyche than treachery and avarice and a cool sense of distance from it all emanating from the person holding all of the chess pieces and placing them exactly where she wants them to go?

Francis saw an opportunity when she learned that the horrible accident she witnessed one stormy night involved the wife and mother of a prominent writer's family and her ability to insinuate herself into their narrative and the fabric of their lives.was a source of both wonder and, I admit, distaste.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a novel written with ingenious invention.
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on December 23, 2012
This book begins with the author recounting how she came across a tragic car accident (was it REALLY an accident?) and you might think this is a whodunit. It turns out to be much more--a depiction of a young, ambitious editor who insinuates herself into the family of the woman who died in the crash and-----I won't give away the ending. It's a very pleasurable read.
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