“Blood orange juice, three days off. I try it, gag and spit it down the plughole. Perfect.“
Ella King ~ Bad Fruit
Just graduated from high school and waiting to start college at Oxford, Lily lives under the scrutiny of her volatile Singaporean mother, May, and is unable to find kinship with her elusive British father, Charlie. When May suspects that Charlie is having an affair, there’s only one thing that calms May down: a glass of perfectly spoiled orange juice served by Lily, who must always taste it first to make sure it’s just right.
As her mother becomes increasingly unhinged, Lily starts to have flashbacks that she knows aren’t her own. Over a sweltering London summer, all semblance of civility and propriety is lost, as Lily begins to unravel the harrowing history that has always cast a shadow on her mother. The horrifying secrets she uncovers will shake her family to its core, culminating in a shattering revelation that will finally set Lily free.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. The the first half was pretty slow and quite dull. There were lots of awful things hinted at, but nothing really happened. Around 60% of the way through, it started to improve but by the end of it I felt let down.
Bad Fruit deals with some truly awful things – there is a lot of abuse, but it’s never examined in enough detail and feels glossed over. Perhaps the author didn’t want to be too descriptive but the true horror isn’t realised because of it. The flashbacks were done well, although they were confusing at times when the location changed. It also wasn’t clear why her mother told Lily these stories; perhaps it was another type of abuse to terrorise her.
Characters were fairly two dimensional and never felt believable. The siblings seemed to look out for each other, yet at the same time bullied and reprimanded each other, despite everything. I struggled to get behind this, and why they would let Lily stay in the house after everything they had all been through. As for the father, he clearly broke his Hippocratic oath and was almost worse than the mother – yet throughout most of the story he was merely weak; it was only at the end he became evil, which again felt a bit odd.
It did raise some moral questions. If someone is abused as a child and they then go onto abuse their own children, how does society lay blame? That’s definitely an interesting topic, but is not explored by the author.
Some good elements, but overall it feels a bit unfinished and unrealistic. The formatting was also really bad and made it hard to read at times as words ran together. It also reads more like a family saga than a thriller.
Thanks to NetGalley for my advance copy. Opinions my own.