The Eye of the Beholder by Margie Orford @MargieOrford @canongatebooks @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 July 2022 from Canongate
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1838856809

My thanks to Canongate and Random Things Tours for an advance copy for review

When danger lies in the eye of the beholder, what happens when you reject its pull?

Cora carries secrets her daughter can’t know.

Freya is frightened by what her mother leaves unsaid.

Angel will only bury the past if it means putting her abusers into the ground.

One act of violence sets the three women on a collision course, each desperate to find the truth. In a nail-biting thriller set between the scorched red soil of South Africa, the pitiless snowfields of Canada and the chilly lochsides of western Scotland, each woman must contend with the spectres of male violence, sexual abuse and the choices we each make to keep our souls.

It sounds so harmless, doesn’t it? That phrase ‘the male gaze’ hides a maelstrom of emotions; an instant recognition for every woman of at least one moment in her life when she felt moments of love and being longed for but equally is likely to conjure moments where the prevailing feeling was fear or the possibility of harm. The trouble is, it’s often difficult to know which is which and one can turn to the other in the blink of an eye.

Cora Berger has made a name for herself painting trauma. Some of it reflects her own experiences growing up in South Africa where she saw and suffered things no child should see. Other pieces reflect the experiences of women in troubled parts of the world – Serbian women for example who suffered cruelly at the hands of those committing genocide during the Bosnian while they raped and mutilated as they went.

But that’s not what really propelled her status to notorious. That happened when she tried, as she had done all her life, to paint out her own trauma and led to a police investigation and to questions about whether she was exploiting her own daughter Freya.

Angel is a woman living her life in the frozen wilds of Canada, studying wolves from a hide behind a solitary cabin the woods. That cabin belongs to an art dealer, Yves Fournier and when he disappears, Angel sets out to find him.

Margie Orford’s book is dark and chilling. It confronts issues of online abuse, child sexual abuse and violence against and hatred of women and so is a deep and sometimes very uncomfortable read.

Told from the perspectives of the three aforementioned women, the reader follows the interconnected threads of their lives, and sees how driven each woman is to deal with the substantial impact that ‘the male gaze’ has had on their lives.

Orford’s writing sets the scene beautifully and starts as a slow burn, building up the women’s stories and fleshing them out so that they are very real to us and then pulls their threads together to make her own piece of art that depicts the impact of misogyny on these women and how determined they are to take control of their own lives and in so doing, redress the wrongs that they have suffered.

Verdict: The Eye of the Beholder is a beautifully written, dark and visceral novel with contemporary relevance that cannot fail to affect anyone reading it. It is a thriller but so much more; the power of this book lies in its harrowing knowledge of the strength and intensity of the male/female power dynamic and how easily it can be abused. Highly recommended.

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Margie Orford is an award-winning journalist who has been dubbed the Queen of South African Crime Fiction. Her Clare Hart crime novels have been translated into ten languages and are being developed into a television series. She was born in London and grew up in Namibia. A Fulbright Scholar, she was educated in South Africa and the United States, has a doctorate in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is an honorary fellow of St Hugh’s College, Oxford. She is president Emerita of PEN South Africa and was the patron of Rape Crisis Cape Town while she lived in South Africa. She now lives in London.

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Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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