Monday 17 June 2019

Review by Louise Brown of "Don't Think A Single Thought" by Diana Cambridge

Don’t Think A Single Thought by Diana Cambridge is a captivating book. The main character, Emma, has a successful husband, an apartment in the Hamptons and a flat in Manhattan, on the surface a charmed life, but from the first paragraph we know she is a troubled woman. She is a writer with limited success, struggling with self-doubt, and her life has an aimless quality at the outset of the novel. Her wealthy lifestyle contrasts with a troubled childhood in care and the author presents a complex character to the reader. Right from the start we are asking ourselves about a child, another pupil at her school, who fell over a cliff and died. Her death had a profound effect on Emma and the back story slowly reveals this.  Meanwhile she tells her publisher about her past, and the death of the child. Her zealous publisher, spotting a good "story," encourages her to incorporate it as fiction into the novel she is writing, entitled Manhattan Diary. This leads to dazzling success as a writer, and she enters the bestseller lists. Her success is short-lived with the second novel receiving dire reviews. One critic describes their response to her novel as “"ho cares?” and we watch her struggle with her apparently charmed life. 

The skilful writing puts us on guard about the main character. Throughout the book you learn that the main character's grasp on reality is tenuous and you feel you are watching the events of the novel through a hazy filter. There are several mysterious child deaths and throughout you know that Emma’s version of events is unreliable. As the novel progresses, different versions of the past are presented to us and it has a beguiling mysterious quality to it that keeps you hooked in right to the end. 

The main character is complex and the writing is so skilful you form a bond with her, needing to know what happened in her past, what will happen in her present and how will her life end up? The writing reminded me of Anita Brookner’s novels. The writing is crisp and spare, and throughout is a sense of foreboding. The main character stayed in my mind long after finishing the book, and I recommend it to any reader.

About the reviewer
Louise is taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She works as a part-time Solicitor, and started writing at the age of fifty-three, ten months ago. She has had two poems published, one in the Acumen, and is currently working on her first novel. 

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