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The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly - Review

Sunday, May 19, 2019


This book was my choice for my book club this year. I noticed it on the list of books that the library has available for readers groups, and I enjoyed He Said/She Said when I read it a couple of years ago, so I thought I'd enjoy this too. And I did, I think I liked it more than He Said/She Said, actually.

I read the first few percent a few months ago, but couldn't get into it. But it's book club this week so I had no choice! If I have a book like this that I HAVE to get into, I find it good to read on holiday when I've got nothing else to distract me. So that's exactly what I did last week, when I was on holiday in Wales. I got into it and really liked it.

So our protagonist is Karen. The novel has a dual narrative, one set now, in the late noughties, where Karen lives in a tiny cottage with her daughter, Alice, and where her partner, Rex, has just come out of prison after doing ten years. Karen and Alice have to learn to live with him, in a way they never have, and Karen lives in fear of any of her neighbours finding out what Rex did.

Meanwhile, we see how Karen met Rex ten years ago. She meets his sister, Biba, and is soon drawn into her bohemian world. Rex and Biba live in a big house in North London and spend their days having parties, taking drugs, and not worrying about what they'll do when the summer ends. Obviously, the reader knows that at least one murder has taken place, but it takes most of the book to find out exactly what happened, and to find out how the two narratives are going to collide. 

I liked Karen as a character, even if I thought she made some stupid decisions. I loved the setting of Biba and Rex's house and family. I guessed some of the twists, but thought they were brought about in a really interesting way. The book as a whole reminded me of Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller, only younger and sexier. I really like Erin Kelly's work and will definitely read something else by her in the future. 

I'll trigger warn for suicide and murder. I'm giving this four out of five. 

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