Charlotte Levin ~ If I Let You Go
Every morning Janet Brown goes to work cleaning offices. It calms her, cleanliness, neatness. All the things she’s unable to do with her soul can be achieved with a damp cloth and a splash of bleach. However, the guilt she still carries about a devastating loss that happened eleven years ago, cannot be erased.
Then, Janet finds herself involved in a train crash and, recognising the chance to do what she couldn’t all those years ago, she makes a decision. As news spreads of Janet’s actions, her story inspires everyone around her, and for the first time her life has purpose and the future is filled with hope.
But Janet’s story isn’t quite what it seems, and as events spiral out of control, she soon discovers that coming clean isn’t an option. Because if Janet washes away the lies, what long-buried truths will she finally have to face.
When a book deals with tough subjects, it always runs the risk of focusing too much on the trauma and not enough on the characters. If I Let You Go manages to be character driven, whilst covering sensitive topics with sympathy and knowledge.
Janet is average. She is not a heroine, or particularly memorable and is just trying her best to survive after the death of her daughter. We warm to her because of her suffering, but as we get to know her more, we see that her grief has perhaps stopped her from living. Her husband Colin is controlling and unsympathetic, yet he genuinely seems oblivious to his behaviour; he doesn’t deserve to be pitied, but it is hard to hate him, when he too is grieving.
When fate intervenes and Janet becomes famous, their relationship changes. Colin is still a nasty piece of work, but there are glimpses into a time when they were in love, which helps us to understand them both better. It’s hard not to be frustrated with Janet for her behaviour, particularly all of the lies, but given the circumstances it’s understandable and we can only feel sorry for her as she projects her grief about Claire onto Mia and Robbie’s daughter. I would have liked a bit more about Nish, as her part felt lacking and she was a great character, but generally characterisations were good and Levin’s writing is compelling and very readable.
Some of the story felt a little unbelievable (and I did want to throw the book across the room at times), but overall I really enjoyed it and the ending is satisfactory, without being contrived.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Book Break for my copy. Opinions my own.