Jess Walker, middle child of a middle-class family, has perfected the art of vanishing in plain sight. But when she arrives at a concrete university campus under flat, grey, East Anglian skies, her world flares with colour.
Drawn into a tightly-knit group of rule breakers – led by their maverick teacher, Lorna Clay – Jess begins to experiment with a new version of herself. But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken as they share secrets, lovers and finally a tragedy. Soon Jess is thrown up against the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?
What I Thought:
I think The Truants marks the first time I’ve read what would be called a literary mystery and, based upon it, I am quite likely to read more.
My initial interest in the book was linked in to the mention of Agatha Christie – the course that Jess takes at Uni – as I enjoy her work, and am fascinated by her disappearance, which is covered in this novel. The connection to Christie leads things quite nicely onto the mystery plot of this book which is subtle and carefully revealed by our main character, Jess.
Literature is awash with charismatic tutors transfixing young, impressionable students, but there was something unique about Lorna Clay and her gang of young admirers. While we hear from Jess the most in the story, the relationships between her and her group of friends – Georgie, Nick and Alec are complex and feelings muddied as they flock around Lorna and eventually end up tearing themselves apart and involved in infidelity, disappearance and death.
I found Jess hard to work out – a middle child who is used to being ignored, I wondered whether in signing up to be taught by Lorna she was running to something or away from it. She is comfortable in her ‘invisible child’ role, but she seems to thrive on being Lorna Clay’s favourite student, almost using her as a substitute for her own parents. I suspect if you delved deeper into her parents’ internal lives, you’d find much more than Jess sees, but that is not explored fully in this book.
The final mystery in the book was a shock and the tension was developed well as I was trying to work out the final solution – it’s actually very clever when you realise, and very vindictive which is always satisfying in a mystery book!
It’s easy to recommend this book, as everyone will find something in it that they either relate to, or that they love in a novel – there are great, lyrical descriptions of the settings and the characters have such well-defined traits that you will immediately decide whose side you’re on.
The Truants is published by Bloomsbury.
To find out more about Kate Weinberg, why not check out her website?
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Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.