Fragile by Sarah Hilary #bookreview

Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .

My thoughts on Fragile

On a busy street in London, tucked away between the office blocks, there is an old house no one seems to notice. No one, that is, but Nell, who stalks the house waiting for her best friend Joe to appear. He’d gone in the night before, desperate to escape from the cold, and Nell hasn’t seen him since. Which means she’s desperate too, to get into the house and find Joe.

A random meeting with a random stranger gives her the opening she needs. She’s in! But no Joe. Convinced he’ll be back, Nell talks her way into the job of live-in housekeeper, something her years of being a surrogate mum in her former foster home has prepared her well for.

It seems like the perfect opportunity. Money in her pocket, a roof over her head, and the chance to wait for Joe to come back, because she knows he will. As you might expect from a novel by Sarah Hilary, however, nothing is quite as it seems – which Nell quickly realises when her boss’ ex-wife turns up. Suddenly, she finds herself in the middle of a toxic relationship and backed into a corner, unsure where to turn.

All of this happens very quickly, almost too quickly for me. And, while the reasons it was so easy for Nell to walk into a are eventually explained (as well as the reason Nell and Joe are homeless, which is told in flashbacks), this meant that I felt like I was playing catch-up for a fair bit of the story.

Yes, there was tension, which I felt, and which was great. And there were plenty of secrets to uncover – which I love. But I struggled to ‘fall’ into the story, to get lost in it. Nell never became real to me, and neither did any of the other characters. I also struggled with Nell and Joe’s backstory. I couldn’t picture it, couldn’t see myself there.

Which leaves me liking but not loving the book. I’m not sure I would recommend it to others, which is definitely not the case with other Sarah Hilary novels. But I’m also not sure I wasn’t maybe expecting something else, which is why I struggled. I’d be interested to know what others think – as I have a feeling I may in the minority here. Have you read it? Did you enjoy it?

Emma x

Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.

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