‘You kept my secret. I know yours now. That makes us even.’
Paul has been led into a life of crime by his schoolyard protector, Daniel – but one night what started as petty theft escalates fatally. Now, at nineteen, Paul must bear witness against his friend to avoid imprisonment.
Louisa has her own dark secrets. Having fled from them many years ago she now spends her days steeped in history, renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan mansion. But her fragile peace is shattered when she meets Paul; he’s the image of the one person she never thought she’d see again.
A relationship develops between them, and Louisa starts to believe she can experience the happiness she had given up on; but it soon becomes apparent that neither of them can outrun their violent past . . .
When I began reading The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly two days ago I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting. Sure I was aware of the gardening references, the horticultural theme, an Elizabethan renovation and of course mystery but what I wasn’t prepared for was an emotively dark and psychological journey involving two protagonists, both very different in their own way, yet somehow kindred spirits magically drawn together by fate.
The narrative is very well paced, Kelly using numerous flashbacks to aid the current storyline, and is intelligently written with an effortless yet highly complex prose. The story itself is a well-structured multi layered drama that works on a number of levels. The crime and mystery element, for me, is secondary to Paul and Louisa, the two protagonists, both of whom are trying to start from fresh, hidden away from those that could do them both damage. As the story progresses their lives become entangled and an unexpected and unlikely relationship ensues.
Louisa, a 39 year old garden designer, is running away from a youthful relationship with Adam, an attractive lead singer in a local band called Glasslake. The relationship is intriguingly dark – with very few bright spots – and as a reader you find yourself begging Louisa to grow up and smell the coffee, or should that be the aromatherapy oils! Both Adam and Louisa are ironically meant for each other in a curious way, both have issues in their lives that mean they are afraid to commit and settle down. Twenty years down the line and Adam is long gone, a distant memory to Louisa, Paul, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Louisa’s former lover, walks into her life.
The only sounds in the room were the soft rhythmic click of the tape recorder and a light nasal whistle every time Rob exhaled. When Paul spoke it felt like jumping off the highest diving board at the pool: you didn’t so much decide to do it as find that, after a few seconds of tiptoeing on the edge, the water was rushing up to meet you.
Paul on the other hand is in his late teens and has lived a troubled life. As a kid he was bullied daily in and out of school and that in itself leaves an indelible mark on his life. Daniel walks into his life and they share an unlikely friendship with Daniel acting as his protector. The book is so much more than just Louisa and Paul’s relationship, Daniel is a pivotal part to the storyline and it’s his actions that force Louisa and Paul together in the first place following Daniel’s lack of restraint landing him in hot water with the police. Daniel is confident, successful with the ladies yet at the same time is insecure when it comes to Paul. The book charts the invisible and mesmerising hold Paul has over Daniel.
There were three points in the story that surprised me and for fear of spoilers I won’t mention them in this review but one scene is pivotal to the way Paul reacts to the site of blood throughout the book. Even as I read this early scene and approached the crucial part I still didn’t see it coming. Gripping stuff, it wasn’t the last time I would be holding my breath!
The Sick Rose is a wonderfully written novel, intelligent and extremely well structured. Charting the lives of three people the book is as much about relationships as it is about gardening and new beginnings! The way Kelly pulls all aspects of this novel together in a seamless narrative is testament to her literary talent. If you’re looking for a book that will take you down an emotive journey and produce an explosive ending you won’t see coming then The Sick Rose is definitely one for you. Highly recommended.
352 pages – ISBN-10: 144470107X & ISBN-13: 978-1444701074