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The Understudy by B A Paris, Sophie Hannah, Clare Mackintosh and Holly Brown - Review

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


I bought this at The Book Vault in Barnsley in December and wanted to get to it quickly so I picked it up over Christmas. The front cover and blurb had appealed to me in the shop, and I was excited to read it.

It's about four women who are all mums of girls attending a prestigious staqge school in London. The women are Bronnie, Kendall, Carolyn, and Elise, and their daughters are Bel, Ruby, Jess, and Sadie. At the very beginning of the book all four women are sitting in the office of the headmaster, Adam, because a music box has been found in Jess' locker. It played her audition song Castle on a Cloud, and featured a mutilated ballet dancer, with one arm missing. Carolyn sees this as a clear threat against her daughter, especially given that the previous year Ruby bullied Jess. Carolyn wants Ruby expelled, but the girls are friends now. Adam smooths things over and asks the women to get the girls to look after a new student, Imogen.

They do this, but it becomes clear that something is wrong with Imogen. She always seems to be where she isn't supposed to be, and she gives Elise the creeps at a sleepover the girls have. She tells Bronnie one story about her life, and bad things seem to happen around her often. The women try to find out what is going on at the school.

The women aren't exactly friends, and their allegiances shift throughout the book. None of them are exactly likeable, and they all do really stupid things. I liked the beginning of the book but found the final third just didn't gel with me. The payoff wasn't worth it, to me.

The four authors write one of the women each. I'm not familiar with any of the authors except for Sophie Hannah who I read a few years ago, but I thought the women were written pretty well and differently from each other. I would have liked to see some more of the girls themselves, both with and without Imogen, but that might just be me.

As I say the ending didn't entirely work for me, so I'm giving this three out of five.

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