It’s 1966 and Frankie Croy retreats to her friend’s vacant palazzo in Venice. Years have passed since the initial success of Frankie’s debut novel and she has spent her career trying to live up to the expectations. Now, after a particularly scathing review of her most recent work, alongside a very public breakdown, she needs to recharge and get re-inspired. From the bestselling author of Tangerine.
From the very first page, Mangan’s new release pulls us in and steadily overwhelms us with uneasy tension, until we’re struggling to breathe ... Between the mysteries, Mangan leaves room for some powerful emotion about the nature of creativity and the emotionally fraught toll the publishing industry has on a writer, the constant need to meet or, better yet, exceed expectations with each new volume. The unending push and pull between criticism and praise, the destructive power of words and public opinion, and how all of that can push someone beyond their own limits and rationality ... a meaty psychological thriller perfect for fans of Highsmith and du Maurier, so vividly described you can smell the briny air of Venice. It’s a slowly unfolding tragedy that seems painfully inevitable, even destined, by the end. Like receding floodwaters, this one will leave a mark sure to linger for weeks to come.
... features a fraught relationship between two women that can sometimes stress the reader out ... Mangan writes with lush, evocative, busy prose. This novel, too, heaves with allusions to other books and other authors — a little Patricia Highsmith here, a little Virginia Woolf there, glimpses of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House someplace else ... Gilly never becomes a fully formed character. It is unclear what exactly she is doing in Venice, other than acting as a plot device. But there is a bravery and a poignancy to Frankie that elevates the novel...I would have liked more about Frankie’s past, which Mangan sketches out almost as an aside, but which explains so much ... It takes some patience to remain inside the fevered mind of Frankie, with its daily questioning of its own sanity, but the wait is worth it. When you learn the truth at the end, you’ll want to go back and rethink everything you read before.
... a perceptive character study. Mangan's accomplished second novel spins on low-boil psychological underpinnings, with a threat of violence ... The complicated dynamic between the two women, based on lies, secrets and jealousy, propels the story. Venice emerges as a strong character, with Mangan skillfully exploring the city's myriad facets ... also works well as a sophisticated story about friendship, the creative process and loving the unlovable.