I love it when unsolicited book post arrives and is SO up my street. I had never heard of this book until it fell through my letterbox but after reading the blurb, I was so excited to delve into the story.
Burnt Paper Sky tells the heartbreaking story of Rachel and her son Ben. On a routine walk in the woods with their dog , Skittle, Ben wants to run ahead to the rope swing near the river. And, Rachel, racked with guilt over her divorce and wanting Ben to have a fearless and exciting childhood, lets him run the short distance ahead to get to the rope swing. However this decision is set to haunt Rachel forever as when she walks into the clearing and finds Ben nowhere near the rope swing, she starts to panic. Calling out his name and wondering if Ben is hiding on purpose, Rachel scours the undergrowth and runs behind trees to try and find her son but when she realises Ben isn’t hiding, the awful realisation that he’s gone hits her.
What follows is a claustrophobic and intense week of searching for Ben. The media paint Rachel as a bad mother, questioning what kind of woman would let a child just run off; whilst Rachel’s ex-husband struggles to come to terms with the fact he hasn’t been able to protect his son. We also follow the lead detective on Ben’s case and watch as he fights to piece together the timeline of events that led to Ben’s disappearance. As the week drags on and secrets start seeping from the woodwork, the race to find Ben alive intensifies and no one knows who to trust any longer.
Well this book was addictive! I managed to devour it in two sittings and as the end drew near I was racing through the pages without a single clue as to how the book would end. I was constantly wondering who I could trust and who I should be wary of which always has me on the edge of my seat. The only downside to this novel was that the ending left me with a lot of questions that I wanted answered. I wanted to know why what had happened, happened. I wanted to know the motivation behind the characters actions and even though we are given a legitimate reason for why these answers are lacking, I still felt a little cheated and wanted more!
The book is written in a myriad of different formats – there’s the normal, bog standard narrative, then we have blog posts, police interviews, transcripts from therapy sessions, transcripts from 999 calls etc. This made for some really nice reading, especially because it made me feel like I was privy to a few secrets. We also have the story told from both Rachel and Jim’s viewpoint (Jim being the detective in charge of the investigation) and we find out a bit about his personal life too which really brings his character to life.
What haunted me most about Burnt Paper Sky though was the attitude the public had towards Rachel. Without knowing anything about her life, they were so quick to judge and point the finger and criticise her for her actions. And it really threw me back to when Madeline McCann went missing and everyone was in uproar about how parents could leave their children unattended all evening. I was appalled by the parents decision to do that, but after reading this book I realise actually, I don’t really know anything about them and to vilify them for an action they will always regret helps no one. I felt a lot of sympathy for Rachel in this book. She did start to spiral into madness as the plot progressed but then show me a mother who wouldn’t if their child went missing?!
As previously mentioned I would have loved a little more explanation at the end but in all honesty this was quite a realistic portrayal of what would and could happen in a similar situation so after thinking about it I don’t feel toooooo cheated.
I am really impressed that this is a debut. I know I keep saying the same thing about debut authors of late but we really are being treated to some incredible new voices in fiction at the moment. After reading the author interview that’s included in the back of this book, I am already looking forward to Macmillan’s next novel which sounds like it’s going to be just as haunting and terrifying as this one!
This is a must read for 2015 and I urge you to pick it up! If you love Rosamund Lupton or Kimberly McCreight then I think you’ll love this too!