Exquisite by Sarah Stovell – a review

I received a surprise copy of this from the publisher and have only just got around to reading it. Exquisite is the new novel by Sarah Stovell, and Exquisite it really is.
The story follows two women and is told purely from their points of view. Bo is a successful author who lives in the lake district with her husband and two daughters. Occasionally she teaches at a creative writing retreat. It is here that she meets our other protagonist, Alice. Alice is a young aspiring writer, who lives in Brighton with her ‘artist’ boyfriend. Alice and Bo soon become friends, but it is then that things start to spiral. As their relationship develops further, you are left not knowing who to trust. Is young Alice being preyed on by a manipulative older women, or is Bo the victim of an unhinged stalker?
Having previously just finished a hard going (but still good) novel, Exquisite was the perfect next read. I loved this and could not put it down, consequently I actually read it over a couple of days (my late marks at work just keep rising thanks to books!) Throughout the novel I couldn’t decide which of the two main characters I believed. As soon as I thought I had it figured out something else would get thrown in that would change my mind.
I felt both characters were well written, and you ended up liking and disliking them both in equal measure. My only slight criticism is that I struggled to place what year the novel was set in. At the start Alice had to go to the library to send emails which surely no one does nowadays? However putting aside that very minor gripe, this was a fantastic book.
The novel was set mainly in the Lake District and using this small, and to me relatively unknown, setting added to the mystery around the character of Bo. Was she really happy living in the quiet town she had chosen for her family, or was she craving some excitement instead? The writing seemed to flow gently, building up the atmosphere around the two women. Without wishing to give away any spoilers there was one scene that was quite shocking, jarring as it did with the rest of the story. This just added to the tension of what I felt was a superbly plotted book.
Exquisite was an excellent novel and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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