Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Book Review: The Playground

I only have a few book review posts for the rest of this year but I'm pretty sure they are all going to be good and I'm happy to be leaving 2019 with a bang... at least book wise.

The Playground - Jane Shemilt

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?

I knew going into this that I probably wasn't going to like any of these characters and I was totally right, they are the worst. Why they even had kids is completely beyond me, but I bet we can all name four of five parents that we know that definitely shouldn't have had kids.

Imagine them as these characters because it helps. In fact, we probably know people who could play each role because we know these people. You feel terrible for the kids because they don't always necessarily know how awful parents their own are and they inevitably turn out pretty similar to them and that my friends, is the circle of life. I say often that a good thriller/suspense type book needs to be full of characters we don't like or don't want to root for because we inevitably want to see someone go down for once. The downer for me is that even though this book is a meandering trail of "what the heck is going on".... I knew what happened fairly early on. It didn't ruin the book for me, I just wish there almost was a total twist at the end that blew me and my guess out of the water because I missed something stupid that was actually incredibly critical.

The best part of this book was watching the parents each spiraling to hell in their own way and bringing each other down all the while thinking the kids are left relatively unscathed and OK. MEANWHILE, these kids are wreaking havoc with little to no supervision because their parents are the captains of the hot mess cruise ship. It almost feels like two seriously depraved stories happening at the same time and converging together at the worst possible time. At the end of the book I take away that children are not stupid, children are sneaky, and no matter what WE do as adults, the children are watching.

This book is incredibly hard to put down because debauchery is all over the place but someone is also playing them all and it's so disturbing on so many levels. It's honestly exactly what I needed in between cheerful and optimistic Christmas books and movies. Life is all about balance, my friends. If you want something to keep you hooked and mess with your head a bit, this is your next read.

Although it isn't released until 12/30/19, you can pre-order it now at HarperCollins but also most book retailers, too!

Thank you to William Morrow Books and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own; this post contains affiliate links. 


Erica Metcalf said...

I love your book photo! :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh gosh, I think I'd like this one. I think we do all know parents that should never have had kids!