Welcome to my stop on this weeks The Night Visitor Blog Tour hosted by Quercus Books. I have a review to share with everyone! The Night Visitor is intense, obsessive and alarming at times. Lucy Atkins has constructed a brilliant narrative that is split between two very striking and deranged characters. Please check out the other stops on this tour, the poster will be at the bottom of this post.
Sent to me by Quercus Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 04/05/17
Publisher: Quercus Books
Format: Hardback, 368pp
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Summed up in a word: Obsessive
Thank you to Alainna for including me on this blog tour and sending me a copy of the book for review. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect with this novel. After a few chapters I began to understand what Lucy Atkins was trying to achieve with The Night Visitor and it really hooked me. I was continually trying to guess the outcomes of the plot; trying to decipher the consequences of each of the two main characters interactions. In the end I just went along with the back and forth. The Night Visitor is about what happens when you push someone too far.
Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.
Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.
As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.
The Night Visitor is a compelling exploration of ambition, morality and deception that asks the question: how far would you go to save your reputation?
The Night Visitor is a novel centred around the relationship between Olivia Sweetman and Vivian Tester. Olivia is quickly becoming famous due to her upcoming book Annabel. Olivia is a historian (Victorian) and her new book just might be a bestseller. Vivian is a retired academic who helped Olivia with the research for Annabel. The opening scene of the book is set at the launch party of Annabel, Olivia is sick with worry as Vivian knows a secret that could destroy everything that Olivia has spent years building up. Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia is sure she sees Vivian waiting in the shadows, ready to take everything from her.
The narrative then jumps back to 2 months before the release and the definitive moments that the relationship between the two women began to turn sour. Olivia is an over-worked stress-head with a big family. After writing Annabel and spending months promoting the book, Olivia just wants to relax and take the family on their yearly holiday to the South of France. Vivian is on a high after spending so much time focused on the book. Vivian does not have much in her life, having lost her dog 5 months ago she is lonely, and working with Olivia was a great way to fight the depression and sharpen her aged mind. Wanting to go straight into another book, Vivian goes out on her own to figure out a new book for the pair to begin writing.
Unable to wait, and with Olivia ignoring her emails, Vivian decides to head to the South of France to meet Olivia herself. Thinking that Olivia will be happy to see her, Vivian is exciting to put her new story idea into play; The Chocolate Cream Poisoner. Olivia is having problems with her husband due to decisions he has made which have shaken the core of their whole lives. The stress is mounting up, and seeing that Vivian has somehow followed her to a remote location that she didn’t tell anyone about, drives her over the edge. A heated conversation in a restaurant changes their relationship forever. They both reveal secrets that set the novel on a course for destruction. Vivian knows the truth, will she tell?
The element I loved most about this book is definitely the balance of narrative. Choosing to split the plot between two characters, and also giving them different perspectives really set the story-lines apart. Olivia is third person. Vivian is first person. This worked so well as it is clear from the beginning how on edge Olivia is, but seeing this through Vivian’s eyes took the book to another level. The shining star in The Night Visitor is the dynamic between the two main characters. Olivia is sure she is holding all the cards, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear who is really in control of her future. Lucy Atkins got the pacing and development of the novel spot-on, very impressed.
In terms of style of writing, Lucy Atkins switches between overly confident and crippling panic. The tone of the book evolves as Olivia slowly realises she needs Vivian more and more. As a said before, I thought LA’s choice to split the perspectives up really made this novel. Olivia’s world is melting around her and we see it from above, with all the pieces moving around her. With Vivian it is all about control, being in her head and seeing how she is manipulating Olivia is chilling. I enjoyed see the same interactions from both sides as it was interesting to see the difference in voice and opinion. Also, though it is not usually something I mention, I read this in hardback and I really liked the font against the page colour. It was remarkable easy to read and made the book flow just that little bit better.
The Night Visitor is all about the characters. The plot is centred around the release of Annabel but, alongside Olivia’s family dysfunction, that is about it. The characters really make this novel something special. One character in particular and that is Vivian. Vivian is a master of manipulation and control. Playing the whole ‘innocent old lady’ routine when in actual fact she has a well planned agenda behind her actions. Vivian was so well written and developed. Her life is fleshed out, the horrors, the successes and the failures. Olivia is also well written but in the sense of a complete and total life-implosion. At every stage, Olivia was trying to claw back control but Vivian had the upper-hand again.
The themes in The Night Visitor range from intensely relevant to subtly interesting. Vivian’s night visitor was fairly intriguing but, other than the explanation, was not explored very well. I know it was included to make Vivian seem haunted or unhinged. It may also be a metaphor for the oppression she suffered in her life. Not entirely certain. Other key themes include sexism, mental health issues and infidelity to name a few. I would recommend this book to an audience who like a darker shade of drama that relies heavily on character interactions.
Overall I have given The Night Visitor 4/5 stars because it really stood out to me. I wasn’t to sure about it going in, but Lucy Atkins crafted a dynamic so interesting and intense that I could hardly put the book down. There was nothing I outright disliked about this novel, just a few of the tones/themes that made some of the narrative repetitive. Please support Lucy Atkins, I am excited to see what she creates next!
About Lucy Atkins
Lucy Atkins is an award-winning feature journalist and author, as well as a Sunday Times book critic. She has written for many newspapers, including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Telegraph, as well as magazines such as Psychologies, Red, Woman and Home and Grazia. She lives in Oxford.