Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Published by Faber & Faber
2nd January 2014
Don't tell them about Apple Tree Yard, don't tell them about us. No one has any way of knowing. Nothing is written down.
Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.
Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him - a decision that will put everything she values at risk.At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can't control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing act of violence.
The moment builds; it swells and builds - the moment when I realise we have lost. The young barrister, Ms Bonnard, is on her feet in front of me: a small woman, as you probably remember, auburn hair beneath the judicial wig. Her gaze is cool, her voice light. Her black robes look chic rather than sinister. She radiates calm, believability. I have been in the witness box two days now and I am tired, really tired. Later, I will understand that Ms Bonnard chose this time of day deliberately. She wasted quite a lot of time earlier in the afternoon, asking about my education, my marriage, my hobbies. She has been down so many different avenues that at first I am not alert to the fact that this new line of questioning has any significance. The moment builds but slowly; it swells to its climax.
Apple Tree Yard begins with a court case. You, the reader, are aware that Yvonne Carmichael and her lover, are in court, but you certainly don't know what for. In fact, you don't know what for, until almost the very end of the book - a clever ploy by Louise Doughty to keep you reading to find out whom, what, and why.
Then we go back in time. Was I wholly convinced by the initial scenario at the Houses of Parliament where Yvonne sees a man in a corridor, follows him, and then ends up having a sexual relationship with him without so much as a word being uttered? Possibly not, though I can see how it could possibly happen. Then, though, the book comes into itself; who is this mysterious lover? Why is he so aloof and cagey about his everyday life? Is he, as Yvonne suspects, a spy?
Caught up in a whirlwind romance, Yvonne starts risking everything for her affair to continue. Then someone from work hints that they may know more than she would like, and that's when her perfect life comes tumbling down.
Apple Tree Yard is a page-turner. Initially you want to know about the court case and what Yvonne has done to be in that situation; then you want get drawn into the affair and that relationship. Then, finally, at the end of the novel, Louise Doughty delivers the final blow! You can see why everyone is talking about it!