Apple Tree Yard is one of those thrillers that grabs you from the beginning and never lets up. It is suspenseful, the kind of book that tempts you to peek at the back page to see if everyone makes it out alive, so to speak. But of course, you don’t do that. Instead you stay up all night reading.
Yvonne Carmichael is a renowned scientist, one involved in mapping the human genome. She is married to man who loves her and whom she loves, empty nesters who are both at the top of their careers. Almost on a whim, she is seduced by a mysterious stranger. They pursue a passionate affair that is heightened by his air of mystery and control. It is reckless and risky, and perhaps a man like that could be dangerous.
But the danger comes from elsewhere, shocking, devastating, and awful. Yvonne’s response is exactly how most women would respond, how they do respond according to all the statistics. Of course, it does not end there and Yvonne seeks support from her man of mystery–with even more consequential results.
I don’t think Louise Doughty was trying to write “the” feminist novel, but she certainly has written one that will, I hope, give people insight into the challenges women face. Louise makes choices, choices with long-term serious and even violent consequences, but those choices are rational recognitions of the position of women, even powerful, successful women, in society.
There is a scene in the courtroom when a female officer gives testimony. Her testimony is undercut because of her association, however, unwilling, with the accused. It was a microcosm of how women are shamed and diminished even when they are the victims. Yvonne understands that, not just as a woman, but as someone who is analytical, who understands the evolutionary power of biological determinism when it is hand in hand with social mores. It makes for fascinating reading, her detached analysis of her own trial.
I loved Apple Tree Yard. It’s a fast-paced, character driven story narrated by a woman who is on trial for murder. There are a lot of twists between her giving testimony in her trial in that first chapter and the shocking revelation at the end, but they are all fair and all very credible.