Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 August 2021 from HQ
ISBN 13: 978-0008238735
Once you let her in, she’ll never leave…
Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept…
When Grace returns to Abi’s life, years after they fell out at university, Abi can’t help but feel uneasy. Years ago, Grace’s friendship was all-consuming and exhausting.
Now happily married, Abi’s built a new life for herself and put those days behind her. And yet as Grace slips back into her life with all the lethal charm she had before, Abi finds herself falling back under her spell…
Abi’s husband, Rohan, can’t help but be concerned as his wife’s behaviour changes. As their happy home threatens to fall apart, he realises that there’s something deeply unnerving about Grace. Just what influence does this woman have over his wife, and why has she come back now?
A chilling story of guilt and obsession from Anna Kent.
I am delighted to welcome Anna Kent to my blog today. I feel very privileged that Anna has agreed to share with us her thoughts on one of the key drivers of this fascinating and chilling thriller; toxic friends. As you’ll see from the description above, The House of Whispers is about what happens when an old friend comes back into Abi’s life and disrupts the life she has built with her husband Rohan. Here’s Anna to tell you more:
TOXIC FRIENDS by Anna Kent
The House of Whispers opens with reclusive artist, Abi, learning that her best friend from university, the enigmatic Grace, is coming back to town after a four-year absence. There’s a hint that things hadn’t ended well the last time the two friends saw each other, and we see that Abi initially tries to prevent Grace from staying with her and her husband, Rohan, but then she relents.
Once Grace arrives, we learn quite quickly that there’s a power imbalance in the friendship, and Grace’s behaviour towards Abi reflects that. Yet, despite her intention not to let Grace walk all over her, Abi does nothing.
Although The House of Whispers is primarily a story about guilt, I also wanted to use it to look at toxic friendships. Many of us have experienced, or at least witnessed, one or two of these over the years, and one thing I notice is that the last person to spot the toxicity is the actual victim.
For whatever reason, it’s always slow to dawn on them that they’re being taken advantage of, or that their friend is not being as supportive of them as a true friend would be. Often the toxic behaviour is subtle and, if you question it, it’s denied – or it swings back and forth: just as you begin to realise that your friend makes you feel bad about yourself and decide to back away, she’ll do something truly fantastic that pulls you back in and has you wondering what you were worrying about. Rinse and repeat this cycle until your confidence in your ability to judge your feelings is decimated.
Or perhaps you actually do see how badly you’re being treated, but you don’t want to believe it; perhaps, deep down, you think you’re not worthy of being an equal to your friend, so you let it continue. You make excuses for your friend’s behaviour, which of course, only encourages it or, worse still, you start to think it’s all your fault.
In Abi’s case, we get the sense that there’s some sort of debt owed to Grace, which is why she puts up with the passive-aggressive snipes and Grace’s imperious behaviour but, of course, putting up this kind of negativity from the person who’s supposed to be your biggest cheerleader has ramifications. All the joy is sucked out of the friendship, leaving the victim lonely, stressed and riddled with doubt.
So how do you escape a toxic friendship? It’s not advisable to leave it till the situation explodes: try to take a step back to get some perspective, then set boundaries of what you will and won’t accept in the friendship. If you decide to have it out verbally with your friend, maybe write it in an email so you can get your thoughts across clearly and without emotion. If you prefer to speak to them about it, practice what you want to say, and be clear about it when you say it because toxic friends are skilled manipulators who often twist what you say. If this sounds too difficult, you could always ghost them – then find yourself some friends who radiate joy into your life instead. If only Abi had known all this!
My thanks to Anna for that fascinating piece! You can buy The House of Whispers here:
Anna Kent has worked as a journalist, magazine editor and book editor as
well as enjoying a stint as a radio producer. She’s written for numerous
publications at home and abroad, including the Daily Telegraph, where she was a contributor for six years. Brought up in the South East, she loves to travel while maintaining a base in Gloucestershire. She’s married with two children