Louise Doughty

All posts tagged Louise Doughty

Black Water – Louise Doughty

Published June 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.

In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk?

Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.

Black Water confirms Louise Doughty’s position as one of our most important contemporary novelists. She writes with fierce intelligence and a fine-tuned sense of moral ambiguity that makes her fiction resonate in the reader’s mind long after the final page has been turned.

What did I think?:

Like many other people I’m sure Louise Doughty had me absolutely captivated with her last novel, Apple Tree Yard so when I saw Black Water, her latest story floating about on Twitter I knew I had to try and read it as soon as possible. A huge thank you to Sophie Portas and the lovely team at Faber & Faber publishers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I am going to be really honest and admit I was slightly disappointed with Black Water although it was still an enjoyable novel! Was I expecting another Apple Tree Yard? Perhaps I was and my expectations were stupidly high for her follow up. Black Water is quite a different beast of a story – quiet, relatively slow paced yet quite menacing and shocking in parts but I did appreciate how completely different it was in comparison to her last novel.

During the narrative, we become immersed in the present and past life of one man, known as John Harper but his birth name is actually Nicolaas, mixed race son of a Dutch woman and Indonesian man whom the Japanese cruelly decapitated when John/Nicolaas was quite young. John hasn’t had an easy life. There are many dark moments both in his childhood which we learn about in detail and when he becomes an adult and begins working for a shady agency operating in Indonesia in the 1960’s. When we first meet him in the late 90’s, he has returned to the island of Bali in some sort of disgrace and is determined that he is merely a sitting duck, waiting it out until his own people want to “get rid” of him because of his past misdemeanours. While he waits, he becomes involved with a woman called Rita who he unburdens some (yet not all) of his life story to and begins to feel some sort of happiness and hope again. We, the reader however know exactly what has happened to John in his life and the weight of what lies on his shoulders – who knows how it will all turn out?

So, when I started this book I did feel some trepidation. The narrative flits back between a number of time periods, the present time (1990’s), the time of John’s first tour in Indonesia (1960’s) and John’s early childhood (1940’s). We begin at the present time and I have to admit, I really wasn’t enjoying this portion of the story at all. At this time, I couldn’t sympathise with what John was going through and he came across as slightly unlikeable and not a character I felt I wanted to get to know. Then we go back in time and Louise Doughty, all is forgiven. The parts set in John’s past (when he was Nicolaas) were absolutely fantastic, thrilling and even heart-breaking at points. You really get a sense of why John is the way that he is although I could never quite understand or condone what he was doing in Indonesia or accept the horrific incident that he constantly berates himself for in the present time. Also, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his relationship with Rita and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if their story was necessary for the novel? Compared to Apple Tree Yard, this is a slow burner of a novel but it is certainly worth it to get to the historical parts of the narrative which I thoroughly enjoyed. Finally, I know relatively little about the political situation in Indonesia in the 1960’s and it’s always fascinating to learn more about a period of history that you’ve previously been completely ignorant of.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):


WWW Wednesday #33

Published March 19, 2014 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday, and thanks as ever to MizB for hosting. I’ve been away from this meme for a bit as I’ve been moving house, sorting out a new job – the usual boring demands but I’m back!

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?:


I’ve been reading this book for what seems like ages but it’s quite a slow burner. It’s part of the British Empire challenge I participate in with a book group on GoodReads and quite an interesting and informative read.

What did you recently finish reading?


This book is one of the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club 2014 reads, and I reviewed it with my sister and fellow blogger ChrissiReads. Go to one of our blogs to check it out!

What do you think you’ll read next?


This is the final part in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I’m really excited about this one and can’t wait to start it!

What are you reading this WWW Wednesday? Please leave your link and I’ll stop by and pay you a visit. Happy Reading Everyone!

Talking about Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty with Chrissi

Published March 15, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement, but you can never buy them back.

Yvonne Carmichael is a geneticist, a scientist renowned in her field but one day, she makes the most irrational of decisions. While she is giving evidence to a Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament, she meets a man and has sex with him in the secluded Chapel in the Crypt. It’s the beginning of a reckless liaison, but there is more to her lover than is at first apparent – as Yvonne discovers when the affair spins out of control and leads inexorably to violence.

Apple Tree Yard is about a woman who makes one rash choice that ends up putting her on trial at the Old Bailey for the most serious of crimes. Like the highly acclaimed Whatever You Love, it is part literary investigation of personal morality, part psychological thriller.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did the book grab you immediately, or did it take a while for you to connect with the story? Did you ever connect with the story?
BETH: When the novel opens, Yvonne is in court charged for an offence committed with an unnamed man. We aren’t told immediately what has happened, and it is a while before we find out which intrigued me from the start and made me want to continue reading. As for connecting with the story, I don’t think I felt any real empathy for the characters themselves although they were interesting enough to make me want to carry on with the story.

BETH: Was this book what you expected or did it surprise you in any way?
 I’m not sure what I expected from this book as I went into it not knowing much about it.  From reading the synopsis, I thought it was going to be more of a psychological thriller but I actually got a courtroom drama/thriller feel out of it. So, it didn’t really surprise me in any way. Despite the promising start, I didn’t start to become intrigued by the book until the last quarter. I think this is because I didn’t really find the characters believable as much as I wanted to. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. It’s not a bad book. It just didn’t grab me.

CHRISSI: Do you think that the outcome to the story is inevitable as soon as Yvonne starts the affair, or do you think there was still a point up to which things could have been different?
BETH: I didn’t really know what the outcome was going to be, to be honest it could have gone either way depending on what the author wanted to do. What was interesting for me as to how my opinions changed about our main character Yvonne throughout the novel. It was like the author was deliberately swaying me one way or another, and to be honest I’m still not sure how I feel about her!

BETH: What did you think of the way in which the characters were presented?
 This is an interesting question. I think part of the reason that I didn’t connect with this book, was because I didn’t really connect with the characters. I don’t always have to like a character, but I usually like to find something about them that intrigues me, or makes me realise why they act the way they do. I can’t quite make up my mind on my thoughts about Yvonne. She’s certainly complex. Credit to Louise Doughty for that! I didn’t think Yvonne’s lover came across very well. I think the most likeable character was Yvonne’s husband, Guy. He put up with so much.

CHRISSI: Discuss the ending of the book, and what you see Yvonne’s future to be now?
BETH: I don’t really want to give too much away about the ending in the book, but I felt dreadful sympathy towards Yvonne and how much she has changed as a person through the events she experienced. It was quite hard to read about her husband Guy, and the unconditional support he gave her despite what she did. As for her future, it’s hard to say, I don’t think that she would be able to go back into such a high-powered role career wise, and there is a risk that she could spiral into depression.

BETH: Were there parts of this book you didn’t enjoy? Why?
CHRISSI: As I mentioned, I didn’t really get pulled in by the book until the last quarter of it, despite the promising beginning. I think for me, the characters weren’t very believable and I didn’t become invested in their story. I was intrigued enough to keep reading, of course, so again, it’s not a bad book. I think it’s one that will definitely be a good book club read. There is a lot to discuss within the book.

CHRISSI: Would you read another book from this author?
BETH: Yes, I would. I enjoyed this novel and thought the telling of it was very unique. I’ve already got the authors Costa Award nominated book Whatever You Love on my Kindle and hope to get to it fairly soon!

BETH: Do you think Yvonne has learned anything by the end of this novel?
CHRISSI: Yvonne’s life is a bit of a train wreck. I think she did learn something by the end of the novel. I think a lot of it was self-discovery.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!


Star rating (out of 5):




3 Star Rating Clip Art

Richard and Judy Spring Reads 2014

Published January 4, 2014 by bibliobeth


Richard and Judy’s book club is back again for Spring 2014, and it looks like there are some good choices with some interesting reading to be had! Here are the eight titles:

The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

A Commonplace Killing – Sian Busby

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

The Never List – Koethi Zan

Sisterland – Curtis Sittenfeld

Longbourn – Jo Baker

Rage Against The Dying – Becky Masterman

A few of these books have been on my radar for a while – namely Apple Tree Yard, The Rosie Project and Longbourn, and I have already read and reviewed The Never List which was excellent and I highly recommend. As for the rest, I’m looking forward to reading and discovering some great new stories.

As always, feel free to comment and read along with me!