A Version of the Truth is an incredibly dark novel that is told via dual narrative timelines that flow expertly between 1991 and 2019. I will admit that I was expecting this to be more of a psychological thriller based off of the blurb on the back of the book, but I loved what I got instead!
Now that might sound weird considering I’ve said this is a dark novel (and I’m nowhere close to lying there!) but for those who know me, you know I like dark.
But not everyone does, so be warned: This book is not going to be for everyone.
Readers may go into A Version of the Truth expecting a psychological thriller like I did, and therefore not expect to see such deeply disturbing subject matter. But within the pages of A Version of the Truth lies graphic depictions of consensual sex, gang rape and implied paedophilia. [Also, it’s very difficult to discuss this book without spoilers. I’m not trying to actively spoil anything, but there are certain things I can’t discuss without mentioning minor spoilers. So…spoiler warning.]
However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, here’s why:
A Version of the Truth is a novel filled with unpleasantness. The characters are incredibly elitist and represent the very worst in mankind. But that’s the point. This is not a novel where we’re supposed to relate to all of the characters (although I couldn’t relate to any, so that’s a flaw but more on that later). I hated all but one of the characters. Hated them. Ally had a bit of a come-back in the final few chapters, but it’s not enough nowhere near enough. Steven is the only redeemable character, and he plays such a minor role.
” ‘Does it bother you, being a virgin?’ Though she was clearly trying to be kind, it sounded as if she was actually asking, Do you mind being disabled?“
The victim, Holly, although what she goes through is horrific, is not a likeable character (no, I’m not saying she deserved it!) I’m just saying that even the victim is hard to empathise with overall (except the assault scenes) because she’s whiney, dull, overly obsessed with boys/sex despite being incredibly sheltered – and the misplaced jealousy is unreal! I felt pity for her, but ultimately I couldn’t relate, which is a shame because I feel like this is the character the author wanted us to be able to relate to.
Holly’s choice not to go forward is one I struggled with, if she did go forward, it’s likely that all of the justifications she gave for not doing so are unfortunately true, but if she didn’t, she’s making it so much easier for them to get away with it again. It’s a complex and controversial situation.
Julianne is another character I struggled with for a very basic reason. Her son, Stephen, tells and shows her that he’s found something horrific on the family iPad in his dad’s files. And he did. Julianne sees a couple of them and they are enough to really shake things up. But my big question here is: why didn’t she look at ALL of the files when she was shown the first ones? I genuinely can’t believe that any mother, or person for that matter, who had just read that would just stop at the first few files – especially when Stephen says to read to the end!
Julianne’s and Holly’s narratives don’t seem overly connected at first, and then it hits you in the gut as to why and how. A Version of the Truth is a very clever book, both in timeline management and how it makes the reader think about what characters could/should have done according to their own moral compass.
“I had no more energy left to fight with.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the subject matter is dark, repulsive even, but damn does the author keep you going for this one! It’s a really addictive read; I read it in two days because I wanted to know what would come next. The dark and disturbing story line jumps from sexy to fucked up real fast.
I think that some of the chapters weren’t really necessary to move the plot along, they could have been cut completely and the book wouldn’t have suffered for it. But speaking of necessary to the plot: The difficult scenes, such as gang rape, are integral to the plot, but they are handled well and never glorified. They aren’t there simply for shock value, although they are shocking. I think it takes a really mature writer to be able to deliver this sort of subject matter as graphically as it’s done in A Version of the Truth and be able to have it as necessary information, rather than just for the shock-value, which a lesser writer may have been tempted to do.
Again, there are some difficult things to read about in A Version of the Truth; elitism, sexism, racism, homophobia, rape, gang rape, paedophilia. The disturbing thing is, it’s quite ‘real’ – you could genuinely believe that this happens in real life – maybe it already does. That’ the frightening and truly disturbing part.
I feel like it’s going to get slammed just for being a difficult read with graphic depictions, which I don’t think is fair. If a book contains something youdon’t like, that alone doesn’t make it a bad book. It’s just not to your taste. If it’s got stuff in it you don’t like, and you also don’t like the writing style, and so on and so forth, then it’s a bad book.
I’ve seen this book compared to Marmite a couple of times. You’re going to love it or hate it. And I agree. And for the record, I like Marmite.
I highly recommend A Version of the Truth to people who can handle, or seek out, dark, dark subject matter and enjoy reading about nasty, awful and evil characters to the point where you seethe with each turn of the page (shout out to all my hate-readers)! It’s got a bit of an abrupt ending, which is a shame after 300 or so pages, but overall it’s a great book.
“The fear, which had helped me continue to fight back, steadily became like an anaesthetic.”
Thanks to Avon for partnering with me and for providing and advanced copy for review.
We all see what we want to see…
2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.
1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.
A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?
B P Walter works as a social media co-ordinator for Waterstones, based at their HQ in Piccadilly. A Version of the Truth is his debut novel.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review. I did receive a copy in exchange for a review, but this did not have any effect on my review – all the opinions are honest and my own.
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