One spur of the moment decision can change your life in ways no one ever could have forseen.
Story in a nutshell –
Yvonne Carmichael is a scientist, with a seemingly perfect life of a beautiful home and a good marriage.
One day she meets a man in the Houses of Parliament and the two of them start an affair.
It’s the start of a reckless liaison but there is much more at stake here – for there is a lot more to her lover than is apparent.
And neither of then could have foreseen what happens next….
Set in London – in and around the Houses of Parliament and of course Apple Tree Yard
A – Westminster Bridge
B- Houses of Parliament and Palace of Westminster
C – Charles II Street
D – Duke of York Street
E – St. James’s Square
F – Apple Tree Yard
The novel opens up at the Old Bailey –
We don’t know the meaning or significance of Apple Tree Yard – and why it should be the title of the book at this point – but a keen piece of foreshadowing in the opening courtroom scene sets it up nicely –
You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin , sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’
The novels opens as Yvonne is on trial as a direct result of her affair but for exactly what kind of crime we are not sure yet. The tension is palpable and the starkness of the court walls feel as if they are closing in on both Yvonne and the reader. –
I know that in a few seconds, I will start to hyperventilate . I know this even though I have never done it before.
Her inner turmoil is compounded by the fact that much of the novel is written in Yvonne’s mind so that her turmoil and sheer panic that is most effective and alarming is always there, in indirect conversation with her secret lover giving the whole novel a feeling of subterfuge amidst a black veil of confusion as well as secrecy.
The start of the affair –
You paused briefly, then said, ‘Have you seen the Chapel in the Crypt?’ Your tone was light, conversational. I gave a small shake of the head. ‘ Would you like to?’
As the affair continues and becomes even more frenetic and dangerous, it is in complete contrast to the calm, professional exterior of Westminster, the tourists and the Houses of Parliament where Yvonne and the man both work and where they conduct their affair –
I wander up to the house of Parliament and take a walk over Westminster Bridge and pause to lean back against the stone balustrade and watch the tourists holding up their iPads up to Big Ben.
It’s the order of everything so out of place with what Yvonne and her lover are doing that are so thrilling to read. This is a real mystery – which is unlocked by coming to know Yvonne, her reasoning and “excuses” for the affair, the lies she tells herself. Seeing and getting to know her lover only through her eyes makes him an enigma and all the more thrilling as we see him as she does, and finds out about him at the same time as we do –
Their meetings are dirty and phone numbers are swapped in rushed exchanges –
We are still deep in conversation in the cafe on Duke of York Street, deep in our mutual exchange of confidences, when you sit back in your chair and say, abruptly, ‘I have to go now’
Addictive. Totally and utterly addictive. Yvonne, as she tells us the story, is very dry and exacting as she digs herself deeper and deeper into a situation that causes her entire world to come crashing down. There is a horrific scene of violence at one point which made me put down the book and not pick it up again until much later. But read on, as the situation rages furiously out of control and we start to see exactly why the two lovers have found themselves in the dock of the old Bailey. Yvonne assumes so much about a man she knows nothing about. We all know how dangerous ‘assuming’ can be.
And through flashbacks we return to Apple Tree Yard and why this is an important part of the court case –
You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin, sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’
She wants everyone in the courtroom , but especially the jury, to know this is a significant moment.
So, the booktrail did the booktrail of the sites in the book, went to Apple Tree Yard where the book exploded into life. The dark alleys, the small, narrow streets, the innocent looking cafes, the Houses of Parliament..
And all the while, men and women in smart grey suits strode past, files under their arms, Ipads in their bags and phones stuck to their ears…could any of them have been Yvonne or her lover?
And what about where they were going and who they were going to meet?
What do we assume everyday about people?
And just how dangerous can assuming be?