Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Apple Tree YardApple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The opening tease of a scene was the only clue for the first half of the book that this was going to be anything other than a romance, a modern day bodice-ripper. There is no doubt that the affair is described with skill and mostly good taste. The author has a real talent for eroticism. I could see a few eyeglasses getting pretty well steamed from some of the scenes.

The book is told in the first person by a geneticist, a woman Ph.D. with a prestigious position at a British research institute. She is speaking as though to her lover, who we know from the opening scene is “in the dock” as her co-defendant, although we don’t know exactly what for. The suspense is palpable until the author brings us to the events that lead to the trial, rather a long way in, at which point things becomes rather predictable.

At times the monologue was out of character, and this bothered me a bit. I listened to it on CD, read by an excellent actress who used a very high-class, educated accent for the protagonist, so it was jarring when the romantic language was punctuated with an F-bomb. The crudeness was kept to a minimum, but it still took me out of the story and detracted from the empathy we are to feel for the main character, who is portrayed as a victim.

At times, too, her grammar was not consistent with her level of education. At one point she says to her lover, “Us means you and I”. No, “we” means you and I. “Us” means you and me. She repeats this mistake in reverse later, saying “to you and I.” Don’t they teach the difference between the subjective and objective cases in England? A brilliant Ph.D. speaking this poorly is not credible.

The trial scenes examining witnesses were excellent. As an attorney, I appreciated the skill with which this was done, although I doubt an American judge would allow the attorneys the latitude given the ones in the book.

In Goodreads, I gave it three stars, because I liked it, but for Amazon and this blog I’m raising that to four, since the grading scale is different. I can’t quite go to “really liked it” but it’s worth a read.

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