1960s New York, and Emma Bowden seems to have it all – a glamorous Manhattan apartment, a loving husband, and a successful writing career. But while Emma and her husband Jonathan are on vacation at the Hamptons, a child drowns in the sea, and suspicion falls on Emma. As her picture-perfect life spirals out of control, and old wounds resurface, a persistent and monotonous voice in Emma’s head threatens to destroy all that she has worked for…
Taut, elegant and mesmerising, Don’t Think a Single Thought lays bare a marriage, and a woman, and examines the decisions – and mistakes – that shape all of our lives.
As a number of other reviewers have said a short novel, at only 175 pages, but one that really ‘packs a punch’.
Told in the third person we meet our main character Emma and her husband, high flying surgeon, Jonathan as they are holidaying in the Hamptons. Emma comes across some children playing on the beach in a way she regards as dangerous. After a word with their parents and a brief altercation with the children themselves, we go onto learn that one of these children later drowns. Already in a troubled mental state Emma is driven further into a downward spiral of depression and cripplingly low self worth.
The story continues, covering a number of years of her life, detailing her successes and failures of her writing career, her wealthy but unfulfilling life with her husband and glimpses into her troubled childhood.
Told only through the eyes of Emma an extremely unreliable character with her mental state and drink taking, pill popping day to day existence, the whole story reads as if you are viewing it through her drug hazed brain, and with a number of other child deaths appearing in the story in both Emma’s past and present, you are never entirely sure how much of a role both accidentally or indeed, on purposes, that she plays in the deaths. Could she be so ill that she is causing these ‘accidents’ to happen?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book but am finding it a really difficult book to write a review for. It is written with such skill and finesse it is probably quicker and easier for you to just read it than for me to try and put a review into words! It is a story of a woman experiencing such raw emotions you would expect a much longer and more complicated book, but what the author has instead given us is a short, highly manageable read that pulls you into this woman’s world without you even noticing. A story told through the eyes of doubt and uncertainty but yet so vivid and powerful.
Taking into account the subject matter and the time hopping chapters I was very impressed by the way it is written with such subtle ease and fluidity making it a very easy read. Ticking all the literary fiction boxes but without being a lengthy and complicated book.
For me the dreamlike quality of the story telling is what I enjoyed the most, and even though you sense that this is not going to have a happy ending for Emma, I was still left aghast.
I received this as my first book from my Louise Walters Books supporters subscription, and if this is anything to go by I am very much looking forward to seeing what else comes through my letterbox!
The book is published today by Louise Walters Books.
**********ABOUT THE AUTHOR**********
Diana Cambridge is an award-winning journalist. She has written for many national newspapers and magazines, gives regular writing workshops, and is a Writer-in-Residence at Sherborne, Dorset. She is Agony Aunt to Writing Magazine. She lives in Bath. Don’t Think a Single Thought is her first novel.