This is a book I’ve been highly anticipating. So, when I saw this on NetGalley I had to try and get a review copy, and then I was even more excited when I was lucky enough to get early access to it. I absolutely adored The Girl With All the Gifts (my review of that can be found here), and reading my review of that I’m surprised to see I did only give it 4* because it’s really stuck with me and I recommend it to most people nowadays!
Fellside, however, couldn’t really be more different from The Girl With All the Gifts. I honestly didn’t know much about the plot of this, I just went straight in to it and I managed to read the first third in an afternoon; it packed a serious punch, I could scarcely put it down. However it started to disinterest me the further in I got.
The first few chapters catch us up to the point where we are at Fellside – a women’s prison in the Yorkshire moors. Our main character Jess is a bit of a mess, we start with her not even knowing where – or who – she is and she ends up at Fellside. Now, I found this introduction to the story quite interesting – it was very rapid and visual; very similar to a movie in the sense that it was the important snippets to get the reader up to speed and I found that quite an interesting tactic at the very start of the book; it had me roped in from the very start! However, when we actually get in to the bustle of the prison life it’s just not as interesting – I loved the parts that focused on Jess with other characters on the periphery but I just wasn’t all that in to the ‘prison drama’. For me, it’s how I imagine Orange is the New Black (which – shocker – doesn’t actually appeal to me!) and, for the most part, I was completely disinterested in the bits of the book which didn’t involve Jess. I read the second half of this book in an afternoon. One thing I feel I ought to mention is how much I loved the magical realism element to this. It was creative and interesting. I really wish I knew more about this Other Place because, for me, I wish it had been explored in more depth.
On the whole I loved the first quarter and the last quarter, the middle half was just not to my personal reading tastes for the most part. There are twists and turns in this book that I just didn’t see coming and I love that in a book! I just found a lot of the characters were flat and a little expected. While I didn’t enjoy the ‘prison drama’ as it was happening, come the end it all has it’s place and I understand why it was there and while I didn’t like it, I appreciate the role it had on the story as a whole. It propelled the plot forward and took it to just the right place. The ending, much like The Girl With All the Gifts is open ended and somewhat bitter-sweet, but it was nonetheless very well tied up.
This book did keep me interested. I became very involved with Jess’ story, even if the background story wasn’t keeping that interest for the most part. While I didn’t like this nearly as much as The Girl With All the Gifts I have no doubt it will have the same lasting effect on me in that I’ll not be able to stop thinking about it. This was such a mix of genre and I really don’t think that crime/thriller is the right place for this; it’s magical realism bordering on paranormal, yes there is crime, yes you could argue there is a bit of a thrilling element to it too, but I don’t think calling it a crime/thriller is really going to sell it all that well!
In the end I debated a little on what rating to give this, and I settled on a 3* because for me it wasn’t quite what I think it could have been, and it wasn’t entirely my comfort zone. If a book that has a bit of paranormal/magical realism, with a dashing of mystery, and some Orange is the New Black vibes appeals to you, definitely pick this up – it’s released in the UK on April 7th!