powerful | compelling | emotive
what it says on the cover …
When Becky walks in on her boss with a woman who isn’t his wife, she’s horrified, but says nothing. She owes Matthew too much.
But when the same woman accuses him of rape, Becky is trapped in a nightmare. Was what she saw rape – or is Matthew, her trusted mentor, telling the truth? Becky must try to ignore her own traumatic past and its terrible hold on her.
As Becky attempts to untangle these blurred lines, she risks everything, even her home and family, to find the truth…
PUBLISHED: 20th August 2020
SHELF: Thriller | Suspense
AUTHOR: Hannah Begbie
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook
Thank you to Georgina Moore @PublicityBooks for this paperback copy of #BlurredLines by @hannahbegbie (published by @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK)
my review …
Having just emerged from the pages of Blurred Lines, I can honestly say I think this book should be on everybody’s must-read list. There’s a quote on the book’s front cover from one of my favourite authors, Clare Mackintosh, describing this book as “blisteringly relevant”, and I can’t think of a more perfectly appropriate accolade. Yes, it’s a fiction novel, but the story it has to tell is as chillingly relevant and familiar as the sobering headlines filling our near-daily newsfeeds. On a woman-to-woman level, this book is both an allegory and an awakening, and on an author-to-reader level it’s an incisive and compelling novel written with gripping clarity.
Blurred Lines has been inspired by the Greek mythology tragedy of Medea; a story dating back to 700BC and yet whose narrative is still as pertinent today. Medea shapes the author’s story in two genius ways; on the one hand the book’s main character draws on the main touchpoints of the ancient tale for the writing of her screenplay, whilst on the other hand, the author embraces the influences of Medea in the plotting and theming of her novel. As a result, Blurred Lines is rather like a hall of mirrors reflecting a timeless tale back and forth with seemingly endless lucidity, beautifully weaving a searing truth into what is a hugely enjoyable work of fiction.
The book’s main character – thirty-two year old Becky – took a little time to get to know. At first I got the impression I was being kept at arm’s length, but as the book progresses she gently lets you in to her life, and in doing so it becomes clearer why she opts for caution. The more I read, the more I liked her, and I absolutely loved her fifteen-going-on-twenty year old daughter, Maisie; their mother-daughter dynamic conveyed an intimate authenticity, albeit a relationship that’s heavily influenced by Becky’s own teenage experience.
Becky’s story reveals itself over two time-lines; the present day chapters are interspersed with flashbacks which are a clouded cocktail of nostalgia and loathing, providing the reader with the how and why of Becky’s transformation from teen angst to adult rage. In many ways, these chapters pitch Becky as an unreliable narrator, but there’s such bald frankness to her narrative that I found myself constantly having to reassess my preconceptions. Likewise, Becky’s boss – Matthew – manipulates the reader’s understanding with some extremely persuasive appearances.
Whilst the reader follows Becky through the pages of the book, it’s actually Matthew who seeks dominate and control the plot. As outlined in the brief blurb on the book’s back cover, Matthew is accused of rape by a young actress and Becky was witness to the act. But this isn’t as cut-and-dried as that simplified summary would suggest. I was surprised by Becky’s contrary response, and although a large part of me started to gang-up against her, the author played with perspectives extremely well.
Intriguingly, the author has chosen for her readers to only ever hear a first-hand account of the events from the point of view of Matthew. Yes, we do hear from his accuser, Amber, but only ever via the media. It blurs the lines for the reader, loading the weight of experience in favour of the man we’re being asked to distrust. Does Becky’s own teenage experience make her more attuned to the nuances of the present day allegation, or does it make her less reliable? It’s a question posed to the reader time and time again,
pitting our heart against our head as we endeavour to sharpen up the distinctly blurred lines fracturing this story.
Blurred Lines is a matryoshka doll of a book, full of discordant narratives, manipulative scenes, and the shifting sands of relationships under great pressure. This emotionally wrought novel confronts the reader with an eloquent cocktail of persuasive fiction and stark credibility, woven around a core of indisputable non-fiction. With Medea as her muse, the author has written an astute and thought-provoking novel that had me absolutely rapt from start to finish.
Hannah Begbie studied Art History at Cambridge University. She went on to become a talent agent, representing BAFTA and Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning writers and comedians for fifteen years until her youngest son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
In 2015 she joined the board of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, to raise awareness and advocate for the CF community. She also enrolled in The Novel Studio course at City University, winning that year’s new writing prize. The book she developed there became her debut novel, Mother. She has since won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers 2018.
Hannah lives in north London with her husband, a screen-writer, and their two sons.