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'Disclaimer' by Renee Knight

Imagine unwittingly curling up with a new book, only to realise it’s all about you.

This is the unsettling realisation that dawns on Catherine Ravenscroft in Renee Knight’s recent debut novel, Disclaimer. When a book titled The Perfect Stranger is delivered to her home, Catherine soon begins to recognise uncanny parallels between her and the book’s protagonist, Charlotte. The inextricable link soon comes to a head as Catherine realises that the novel she is reading centres around a terrible event from her past that she has kept hidden for decades. Terrified that her husband Robert and son Nicolas will discover the truth and her life will unravel around her, Catherine attempts to uncover how her own story has become a blend of fact and fiction. Through a blend of accounts set in both past and present tense, the terrible truth is slowly teased out, with Knight’s novel concluding with a shocking and thought-provoking twist.

However, it is not just the enticing turn of events that makes Knight’s debut such a page-turner; it is the empathetic relationship between the reader and characters. We cannot help but imagine ourselves in the shoes of Catherine, Robert and even Stephen, the bitter and mourning retired teacher, at different stages throughout the read. Catherine’s waves of anxiety crash over the reader as her agitation permeates the pages; Robert’s realisation, anger and hurt is so raw it is almost tangible; whilst Stephen’s grief and obsession with revenge is so infatuating it evokes a sense of pity. Through them, we experience the stages of denial, revelation, reaction and finally, aftermath, when the sought-after truth is finally exposed. It is at this point we can rest assured that we have reached the conclusion of the Ravenscrofts’ story, whether it is one we hoped for or not.

Knight unearths a plethora of very human issues through the imperfect personalities in the book and, despite one dark secret lying at the heart of the novel, it is our flaws and those of the people around us that are really under examination. It is our eventual inclusion in the whole picture of both past and present events that results in us thanking Knight for writing us into her story.

 Written by Jessica Panton

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