Book Review: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Genres: Adult fiction, mystery.

I first heard about Rosamund Lupton’s second novel, Afterwards, in December 2011 so I’ve eagerly been waiting six months to read this book. It is told in typical Lupton style – and I didn’t even realise she had a style until I began reading this book. It felt eerily similar to Sister but with a completely different storyline. I really like that about both novels because it shows that the author injects part of herself into her books; they couldn’t just have been written by anyone. This is because Lupton writes, I’d say, in a unique way. I’m not sure how to describe it in English Literature terms but it’s something I’ve never come across before in a novel.

I’d say the only similarity in the storylines in the two books is that they’re both crime novels where you have to figure out ‘who did it’ and they both focus on family dynamics: being a sister (in Sister, unsurprisingly) and being a mother. Afterwards (aptly titled; you realise it has so many meanings as you work your way through the book) is told in a particularly interesting way and one that surprised me. I debated about revealing it here (seeing as you find out on the first page) but I decided against it. It’s much more interesting going in and having no idea what’s in store for you.

The basic storyline of Afterwards is that there is a school fire and the main character, Grace, runs into the school because her teenage daughter, Jenny, is still in there. The novel then takes us on a journey of recalling experiences and retellings of ‘what happened’. We’re faced with facts, information and red herrings as we (and the characters) try to figure out ‘who is the arsonist?’ and ‘why do they keep appearing to finish the job?’.

There are many red herrings in this novel, which works perfectly. I must’ve gone through nearly every character and thought ‘It must be them because…’. I’d envisage, multiple times, what really happened and the motives behind it – and ended up being completely wrong.  Afterwards is told in a beautiful way. It pays particular attention to thoughts and feelings as well as actions. It’s very detailed – nearly 500 pages, and so I left feeling that Lupton had covered every aspect of the ‘case’ until the very end.

Inevitably, I’m going to compare this to Sister. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this as much but that’s because Sister was more of a psychological thriller and we’re confronted with ethical debates concerning medicine (always interesting, in my book) whereas Afterwards is much more personal and family-orientated.

Overall, I really enjoyed Afterwards. The unique way it is told captured my interest straight away and I enjoyed trying to piece together all the information. It reminds you that the way information is presented to you can affect how you interpret it and that this is crucial to criminal investigation. I grew to love each member of the Covey family in this wonderful blend of thriller meets family drama.

My Rating: ★★★★