Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Chosen - Lesley Glaister

Dodie’s mother Stella has always been depressed and withdrawn. Then Dodie, herself now a mother to young Jake, visits her one day asking after her teenage younger brother Seth, and Stella seems uncharacteristically more lively than usual. Seth, who Dodie enjoys a good relationship with, has disappeared, and the only clue to his whereabouts is a postcard she receives from a place called the ‘Soul-Life’ centre in New York, which she later discovers is the home of a religious cult. The next time Dodie visits her mother, a tragedy has occurred. Dodie heads to New York to try and find Seth and bring him home. Dodie’s feckless partner Rod is of little support to her in this.

The clever structure of the novel means that we first read about Dodie’s present day story, drawn in and then left on a cliffhanger, and then a second narrative begins part way into the novel and tells the story of sisters Stella and Melanie, starting back in the 1970’s. They lose their mother early and Melanie, as the eldest, looks after them both, with some help from their Aunt and her partner. They meet and fall under the influence of an older dropout, and this man will change the course of both their lives forever. Finally, the novel concludes with a short section written back in the present, as the two strands come together. There are revelations in the second part of the story that had me thinking back to the first part, rethinking and reassessing everything I’d read.

This is a dark and chilling psychological thriller. It really gripped me, and I found I actually felt very tense whilst reading it, and felt the claustrophobia that the character was enduring. It was very effective at portraying the dangers of a religious cult, and how, once an individual is inside, they can be coerced, intrigued, persuaded, drugged and mislead into starting to believe what is being drummed into them day and night. It’s like a nightmare unfolding, truly terrifying, a compelling read.

Find out more about the author on the Tindal Street website

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