Richard and Judy Review: Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Richard and Judy Review: Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Related Content  //  Book Club Questions  /  Author Q&A  /  Spring Book Club 2014

“One of the best psychological and erotic thrillers either have us have read.”

Richard’s review

One of the best psychological and erotic thrillers either have us have read. An absolutely engrossing story from the first to last page, exploring dark themes and darker behaviour. In some ways, Apple Tree Yard is more of a biblical parable than a novel. And remember the old saw… ‘the Bible has the best stories…’

Louise Doughty combines sex, frustration, passion, and extreme violence in a wonderful cocktail of a novel. We follow fifty-something Yvonne, her central character (one would hesitate to call her the heroine) into an increasingly chaotic and life-changing experience. We want to grab her by the elbow and drag her back to sense and normality, save her from herself, but we really know she is lost from the opening chapter of this book. Even though Doughty cleverly denies us an ending until she is good and ready to reveal it, we know Yvonne is going to hell in a hand cart. Like I say, biblical.

Award-winning writer Hilary Mantel comments hauntingly about this story: ‘There cannot be a woman alive who hasn’t once realised, in a moment of panic, that she is in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong man.’

That’s Yvonne’s dilemma in a nutshell. She is sucked in to a completely impossible, unsustainable sexual relationship with a total stranger. It goes against every instinct she has and yet it simultaneously appeals to every instinct she has. From the very first Yvonne is lost. Lost, and doomed. And she’s not the only one.

“Later, at home, Yvonne can scarcely believe what she has done: it is totally out of character. But in the days to come, she becomes obsessed with finding her random lover again, and succeeds in doing so.”

Judy’s review

Yvonne Carmichael is a high-flying, successful scientist. She is a respected geneticist with a glowing track-record, two grown-up children, and a beautiful home. She loves her husband, who she met at university.

When the story opens, the couple have not had sex for three years.

So perhaps it is inevitable that when Yvonne meets a handsome stranger during a business trip to the House of Commons, she is vulnerable to seduction. And what a seducer the suited, booted, and oh-so-confident man is. Within minutes of meeting in a HoC canteen, the pair have found a secluded corner of the Palace of Westminster and are engaging in raw, passionate sex.

Later, at home, Yvonne can scarcely believe what she has done: it is totally out of character. But in the days to come, she becomes obsessed with finding her random lover again, and succeeds in doing so.

It would have been better if she had not. The affair spirals into deadly violence and a Crown Court trial (I am giving nothing away here: the opening chapter of Apple Tree Yard takes place in the dock of the Old Bailey).

This is a wonderful account of how chaos and totally unforeseen circumstances can flow from deceit and hubris and sexual passion. It is also a fascinating dissection of how an ordered, scientific view of the world is no protection against its vicissitudes.

A triumph of story-telling.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for Apple Tree Yard

“Once you start you can’t stop reading. Terrific”

Helen Dunmore

“A splendidly well-made courtroom drama, full of equally sharp turns of plot and phrase… Apple Tree Yard is very, very good.”

Chicago Herald Tribune

“Doughty is a brilliant storyteller who knows how to build the suspense to breaking point.”

The Times