Seared by Sandra Gustafsson
When Helena meets David at a coffee bar in Sweden, she is frightened by the electric and inexplicable bond between them. After all, she is used to being shunned by the people around her – even cruelly bullied by them. But David, unperturbed by Helena’s icy exterior, inserts himself into her life, and gradually they begin to fall in love. Yet their relationship is anything but innocent. While he is upfront about his marriage to another woman, David’s commitment to his wife continually eats away at Helena until she nears the boiling point. And Helena is hiding a few dark secrets of her own – secrets that could have profound effects on the people around her.
Seared is a psychological thriller in the style of Gone Girl, the main conflict unfolding delicately and masterfully over the course of the novel. Through sessions with her psychologist, readers gain morsels of information about Helena’s relationship with her parents, and, more significantly, with her lover. At times, the narrative feels almost dreamlike; Helena’s psychological evaluations frequently unearth dormant memories into which she plummets like Alice down the rabbit hole. The subtle interchange of memory and reality will threaten to confuse and mislead readers, as any good thriller will do. Beyond the central plot, Helena’s tumultuous relationship with her mother, Simone, lends gravitas to the story. Suffering from a bitter divorce, Simone has become withdrawn from the world, retreating home from work at night like a turtle into its shell. Over time she becomes an increasingly unfit mother for Helena, and later she begins to resort to emotional abuse as an alternative to healthy parenting. The exploration of this malformed mother-daughter bond is essential to understanding why Helena, fully matured, acts the way she does. Both brisk and brutally raw, Seared is highly recommended for fans of thrillers and family dramas.
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