There are books that leave you feeling a little bereaved when you have finished them. ‘Apple Tree Yard’ is one of those books. There are books that, however good they are, leave you unsatisfied by the way they are concluded. ‘Apple Tree Yard’ is not one of those books. It gripped me from the perfectly paced prologue to the very end.
When I say perfectly paced prologue I mean just that. The tension builds in the book just as it is doing in the courtroom. We follow the line of questioning without knowing what the protagonists are charged with. Unlike the jury we are totally in the dark. We just know there are two accused – the female narrator and another. At that stage we don’t even know for sure whether it’s a male or female, unless we have read a bit about the book, as I had.
Unlike the jury we are totally in the dark. We just know there are two accused – the female narrator and another.
The courtroom is described by referring to small details and observations, as are the jury, judge and other players. This is skilful writing. I am familiar with courts and the judicial system and felt I was there.
The book is beautifully written by someone who has mastered the craft. We get show, not tell. We get small details and observations that paint pictures of places, people, emotions. The first violent twist in this story literally took my breath away. I felt as if I’d been punched. I can’t say more without spoiling the book for others; suffice to say that the hatred was palpable and the violence only too real. I didn’t see it coming just as I didn’t anticipate the other twists and turns.
Some reviewers find the characters unsympathetic and their actions incomprehensible, particularly the main character and narrator, Yvonne. Given her lifestyle and background I too found Yvonne’ actions hard to justify. And then I think I romanticised the whole thing so as to be able to justify it to myself. Only to be brought back to earth with a crashing jolt as the courtroom drama unfolded. But that’s another strength, for this is much more than a literary thriller. It’s a thoroughly engaging but disturbing book that forces you to think, to examine your own attitudes and prejudices. It also examines not just attitudes against women, especially older women, in mainstream society but also in the justice system.