I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh looks from the cover to be a family drama aimed at women aged 21 – 55. Another one of those books about a “Bridget Jones” woman looking for a husband who is both sexy and kind. There’s often a man who lets her down first, followed by an underdog who wins her heart. A story told so many times that I wondered what all the fuss was about when I Let You Go took hold of the literary world.
All of the positive criticism surrounding I Let You Go prompted me to pick the novel up and discover that it is actually a psychological thriller likened to Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. This is a genre that’s received a huge revival in the past few years and the bestsellers just keep on coming.
In I Let You Go Jenna is on the run from a horrible past, one that surrounds the death of a five year old boy. When she creates a new life for herself the previous one inevitably catches up, threatening to tear her apart once and for all. Criticism on the front and back covers speak of an astonishing twist and for a while I thought I had it figured out – I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Chapters alternate between Jenna, the protagonist, and Ray, the leader of a police force, and later on a character for Jenna’s past who remains anonymous until the end. This balance draws parallels and shows both moral sides to the story, causing confusion as to which characters deserve sympathy, and provoking thoughts that will continue beyond reading. It’s common with a good book to not want to put it down and the night before my 8:30am seminar I stayed up ridiculously late, unable to stop reading.
While the novel was all very coincidental, arguably too much, the conclusion was gripping. The dramatic closing scenes were powerfully crafted and came to life visually as a result of Mackintosh’s excellent descriptions of character.
On the negative side, Ray’s chapters were frustrating, particularly because they set up issues that remained passive – such as problems surrounding his son and marriage – and these were never finally resolved. For a while I worried Mackintosh would resort to over-simplified dialogue in which Ray and Mags would discuss how their marriage was failing and they should divorce, however I was more disappointed when it wasn’t mentioned at all. Ray spent pages worrying about his son but never acted on any solutions, making me wonder if it was a worthwhile subplot in the first place.
In hindsight, the bold blues and greens on the cover of I Let You Go make a change from the typical black ones within this genre. It proved something I should already know, judging a book by its cover can cause you to miss out on some utterly brilliant novels.
Jessikah Hope Stenson