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Amy Whey hosts a book group at her house on behalf of her friend Char, who founded the group and gets to pick each month’s very safe title. But one month, a rather extroverted visitor shows up - she’s staying at the Airbnb and nobody seems to know who invited her. And when the uninvited guest - Roux - starts to offer Amy’s wine around and proposes a drinking game of Never Have I Ever, Amy and Char realise that they are no longer in control. 

 

Some of the participants readily give up their secrets, but Amy has a secret she is determined to keep. Over the next few days (weeks?) Amy and Roux play a twisty game of cat and mouse. 

 

Never Have I Ever is a long book - and there are parts that do feel like repetition - and it gets off to quite a slow start. The initial book group meeting (shades of the Great Gatsby’s cocktail party but for yummy mummies) introduces many characters and it’s difficult to keep a handle on who is who. For the first 10%, the story is slow and confusing - threatening to become a bed-hopping saga. But when the main narrative line - the Amy/Roux line - starts to emerge, the story settles down. The intensity builds and by the halfway point - when strange things start to happen - it is impossible to put the book down. 

 

Amy is particularly well drawn - complex with multiple hidden dimensions. Most strikingly, despite her battle with Roux, she seems terribly concerned about what Roux might think of her., In fact, much of Amy’s predicament stems from her anxiety over how she will be perceived by her friends, her family and even her enemies. Amy used to be large and lost weight - and maintained the weight loss - through restricting her daily calorie intake to 500 coupled with bulimic tendencies. So Amy’s whole life seems to be about suffering for the sake of maintaining her appearance. 

 

The other characters feel less fully rounded and Roux does verge on improbability,. Perhaps an exception would be made for Tig, a character who appears quite briefly but is both memorable and sophisticated.

 

Overall, Never Have I Ever is an enjoyable psychological intrigue, probably aimed at women rather than men (although this man enjoyed it too). It’s not going to win literary awards, but it would make a great holiday read.

 

****0

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Just pre-ordered it for my tablet.  It will arrive a few days after I get home from what I am hoping is a very relaxing vacation.  I will just have to read other things.

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I also enjoyed it a great deal, but found the beginning slow and dangerously close to chick-lit.  But I knew that Mr. HG wouldn't steer me wrong and he didn't.

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On 12/08/2019 at 20:23, Binker said:

I also enjoyed it a great deal, but found the beginning slow and dangerously close to chick-lit.  But I knew that Mr. HG wouldn't steer me wrong and he didn't.

 

:) 

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