Before I read this book, I had seen a ton of buzz about it on my twitter feed, so I had pretty high expectations going into it. I won’t say I was disappointed by it, because I really did enjoy reading it; it was one of those books you kept wanting to read ‘just one more chapter of’. However, it wasn’t as explosive of a read as I thought it was going to be because the twists were either non-existant or easy to anticipate. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding is another example of the domestic thriller that seems to be on everyone’s TBR these days, but I think this book’s impact will vary based on where you lived in Canada. Let me explain…
In the early 90’s, there was a famous criminal case involving Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, who raped, tortured and killed numerous girls. Karla was released after only a few years, much to the public’s horror, and since then has been spotted out in public, now a mother with two children. It was this case that Harding used as a jumping point for her latest book. Because the crimes took place in Ontario, and having grown up there myself I recognized the basis for the plot of Her Pretty Face immediately, and I vividly remember this being in the news as a kid, so I found the storyline particular disturbing.
Harding tells the story of Francis, a self-conscious mother of pre-teen Marcus who has various personality disorders and has just begun attending a prestigious private school in their community. Kate is the beautiful, confidant mother of Charlie who also attends the same school as Marcus, and all four becomes fast friends. The only problem is, one of the mothers is a murderer. As the book progresses, we discover which one, and the fallout between the families and their communities as the truth emerges.
As a thriller this book could be better, for the reasons I mentioned above. However, it does raise really fascinating questions which are generally ignored by other books I’ve read in the same genre, therefore I do recommend reading it. For instance-what happens when a convicted killer is released from prison, and attempts to make a new life, even going so far as starting a family? Should that person be allowed to pick up their child up from school, knowing they will be exposed to children? My initial answer would be ‘no’, because as a parent, I would find that terrifying, however, as a society we must believe in forgiveness and rehabilitation, otherwise every murder would come with an automatic life sentence.
So, thriller lovers may be a bit disappointed with the plotting of this book, but literary-lovers like me will find it thought-provoking and worth the time.
Fascinating – and creepy. I have to be in the right mood for the psychological thriller, and there’s such a glut of them the past couple of years.
I must admit I’m intrigued! I’d never heard of these serial killers and am stunned that she got out of jail so quickly. I do believe in rehabilitation in theory, but if it came to my own (mythical) kids, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want her within a million miles of them. Wiki tells me she’s volunteering at a school now…
I know-it’s a crazy story, and people who live in that area of Canada are still pretty riled up about it (understandably).
The question of rehabilitation is an interesting one – and my abstract answer is probably different than if a murderer was picking up her kids from school in my neighbourhood. It’s true what you say that where you live in Canada has an impact because I don’t remember hearing about this case at all when I was a kid. We were all scared of the Abbotsford Killer out here on the west coast…
We all have the ‘famous killers’ it seems, ones that stick in our minds from when we were kids. I’m like you-I think rehabilitiation is important, but I’d be pretty upset if I found out she was volunteering at my kids school…or was even at my kids school for pick-up!
This prompted me to look up the Abbotsford Killer and I was surprised to learn he wasn’t as prolific as I had remembered. I guess I was just the right age when it was in the news for it to stick in my mind, as you say.
The questions you ask are presented to me frequently because at my theater job, we have guys from a re-entry facility (the last leg of a prison sentence) who come in and help build sets and do other projects. I know some of them murdered people. None of them are sex offenders–this is made clear. Here’s what we have to do: look at the people before us and judge them then. Do not judge a person on their entire past. This is something we pretty much only do to formerly incarcerated individuals because it comes out. But we don’t know anything about the pasts of people who were never caught.
all good points Melanie! And I will try to do that, although it’s difficult sometimes…it’s certainly worth the effort 🙂
I didn’t realize this novel was based on a real case of killers. After reading your link on those people, I’m pretty grossed out & think I will pass on the book. Totally gruesome. Is this book like that?
I shouldn’t say it was ‘based’ on those killers, because their situation was merely a starting off point, it’s not about them at all. I suppose you could call them ‘inspiration’ for the book, but I hate to use that word in this context.
The book definitely isn’t gruesome, but it has dark undertones for sure.
So I am reading this book and I also quickly saw the very close similarities to the two Canadian killers whose names I don’t want to mention. Yes I live in Ontario and just hearing the names of that couple raises my hackles. I told my wife about the book once I made the connection and she was more upset than me. The atrocities committed by that couple still makes her angry…more specifically that the woman got off way too easily because of the deal she was able to make with the Crown Attorney (that’s what we can District Attorneys here…it’s a remnant of British feudalism I guess).
Had I known about the connection, I don’t think I would have read the book on principle. I picked it up after reading the Party. I will finish the book because I want to know what will happen to Daisy.
I can understand people’s emotions around this book, and for Canadians like us especially, it really hits home. I haven’t read the Party, but if it made you want to read this one I should probably make more of an effort to!