I read SJ Watson’s debut novel ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ when it was released in 2011, which was then made into a film in 2014 starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. I enjoyed the book tremendously so when his second book ‘Second Life’ was released in February this year, how could I possibly resist?
Title: Second Life
Author: SJ Watson
Publisher: Doubleday (2015)
ISBN: 9781922079251 (paperback)
ASIN: 9781921961472 (ebook)
Genre: Fiction, Psychological thriller
What’s it about?
How well do we truly know another?
When Julia Plummer’s sister, Kate, is found dead in Paris in suspicious circumstances, she sets out to uncover the truth. This takes her into the world of internet dating and hook-ups where her sister was known to traverse. All this at the risk of jeopardizing her relationship with her husband and the life of her son. It is gradually revealed that Julia’s 14-year-old son, Connor is actually Kate’s child, the result of a fling with an unknown man. Julia, now a professional photographer, appears to be a respectable middle-class woman, a dedicated mother. Then her past returns to haunt her – her alcoholism from her days in Berlin. Julia is trapped in her mind – constantly questioning her own motivations and desires; ignoring her intuition and burdened with baggage.
While Julia is filled with pathos (complete with baggage), there is a lack of depth in comparison for the other characters, particularly that of Lukas, the man Julia met online. The same for her long-suffering husband, Hugh who is 10-years older encountering problems of his own.
Watson’s attempt at eroticism through Julia’s ‘online dating’ seems forced, although his portrayal of the dark side of internet relationships is horrifying. The voice of Julia is less believable than the voice of Christine of Watson’s first book. The ending is for me dissatisfying – abrupt and utterly convenient.
Simply put, this second book of Watson’s did not live up to his first. Nevertheless, it is entertaining.
This book is a well paced and easy to read psychological thriller with enough suspense to carry it through, yet containing loop holes easily identifiable if one is to go looking. So don’t. Just read for near-mindless pleasure.
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
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