Sunday, 29 January 2012

This is Not Forgiveness

This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees
Paperback, 280 pages

Expected Publication: February 2nd 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
(First Published September 5th 2011)

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, contemporary, death, 
mental-health, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, young-adult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way. This taut psychological drama is the brilliant new novel from acclaimed Celia Rees.

My thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have only read one other book by Celia Rees, Blood Sinister, when I was quite a lot younger, but I still connect Rees with historical and some horror stories. This book is very different from the subjects and style of what Rees has written in the past and I thought that it was quite ambitious.

The story revolves around three people - Jamie and Rob, who are brothers, and a girl who comes into both of their lives - Caro. Jamie is supposedly your typical teenage boy, who gets a little bit obsessive with Caro, and considers them to be in a relationship. At points, I found his  focus on Caro to turn him into quite a weak-willed character. Often, he put Caro before anything or anyone else, and didn't seem very grateful to others who tried to befriend or help him. He only seemed to take Caro into consideration. 
Caro herself is a very dark and mysterious character. Although she has a luxurious lifestyle to fall back on, she doesn't let this change her. I did enjoy learning about the rebellious, anarchist and very political side of Caro, I found it to give her a lot more complexity and it gave me some insight into her personality. However, Caro, in general, is not very likeable. She seems dangerous and has a bad attitude - this may have made her appeal to the men in the story, but it certainly didn't make her appeal to me. 
Rob, Jamie's brother, could have been the most interesting character for me. He is back in England after being rather severely injured whilst fighting in Afghanistan. For the most part of the novel, we find out about him through transcripts of his online video diary. His dialect felt very authentic and his attitude really reflected his personality as well as how it changed due to fighting in a  war. Whilst the basis was there, I think Rob could've been developed into a much deeper character. He was obviously very troubled, but with some research from the author, the portrayal of psychological effects could have been even better.
Martha is a fourth character who is featured in this book, but we do not read from her point of view. She is Jamie and Rob's sister and is obviously very opinionated when concerning her past with Caro. I think that she also could have certainly contributed more to the story as she was a strong character.

One of the main things that bugged me from this book was how the teenagers were portrayed. A lot of the book, at the beginning, focused on teen culture in a negative way. The book was full of swearing, alcohol, drug abuse and sex - it seemed like the characters lives revolved around these things and as I don't really have an interest in that lifestyle, I couldn't connect with them and found it to be a little immature - I would not recommend this for younger readers. At some points, I thought that these subjects actually distracted from much more important issues that could have been discussed.

The attempt to be political was interesting though, especially the parts about the Red Army Faction. I have studied the Baader-Meinhof, a group of urban guerrillas who disrupted Germany's system in the 70's, and found them very interesting. I was shocked and pleased that Rees included them in this book and did add a little bit of history to her story - this actually made the book a lot more enjoyable for me as it was fascinating to see how Caro almost idolised this group and how they influenced her. 

This book definitely has a very powerful start, but from thereon in, it does slow down and then pick itself up again and again - at points, it almost felt rushed. I do think that the ending somewhat redeemed this book, and I did enjoy it. This book was definitely mixed for me though, as I've described. It was still a quite quick read, introducing some important issues and it did have some substance.

Celia Rees will be doing a blog tour starting tomorrow (Monday 30th January – Friday 10th February) to promote her new book This is Not Forgiveness!

This is Not Forgiveness will be published in paperback on Thursday 2nd February in the UK. The eBook is available now!


  1. Sounds like this book was a little So-So, though it seems to start with a bang. It's not really the kind of stuff I read but I loved your review!

  2. The cover is so striking, and the story sounds intense, even if it's not a favorite. Hopefully the next book you pick up will be more your cup of tea :)

  3. I like the sound of this book, but after reading your review it sounds totally different to what I expected. I thought it had some paranormal element when I first read the description.

  4. It seems interesting enough, but as you say in some aspects the characters are not developed enough, and that always put me off certain books. It just breaks the whole structure of the story if the characters do not reach out to me, due to lack of depth when describing their life and personality. Thanks for the review! It was very helpful. :)

    Love, the NaNa girls x

  5. Great review :) I think it would annoy me, the way the teenagers were portrayed. It's great that the ending redeemed the book. I can't wait to read this so thanks for an honest review. Carly @Fiction Fascination :)

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