Book Review || What She Left by T. R. Richmond


What She Left written by T. R. Richmond is a modern day mystery book unlike any other. I stumbled across it due to my need of finding a book in Tesco to get a discount. Okay.. not a discount. You save 90p. But any reason to buy more books, right? (2 for £7 on all paperbacks, just FYI. Supermarket book aisles are hidden gems.). Let's get onto the lengthy review. Bear with me.

I've always had a soft spot for mysteries, even the bad ones that only result in making you loathe the instantly unlike-able characters (looking at you Gillian Flynn). What makes What She Left different, you might ask? Well.. Not only is it good, it is beyond clever. The book is a collection of journal entries, letters, blog posts, tweets and much more that binds together beautifully to tell you the life of Alice Salmon, also known as the dead girl found floating in the river. Before we get into the story itself (spoiler free!), let me just pay awe to the style in which this book is written. Although there are likely tens of books put together in a similar style as What She Left, this was the first I have found. It reads like a case file, to put it simply. It's fragmented into sections and different styles (as I already said), helping you follow the story through the ways in which each character chooses to tell it you. The book relies heavily on the domino affect of life, and it is rather interesting to see how each characters individual story binds together to unravel the Alice mystery.

Alice is a wonderfully written character and I related to her quite a bit, which made the experience of the book all the more enjoyable. She is strongly written with a lot to say, and it's enjoyable to get glimpses into her mind - even if it is a tangible mess at times (much like mine, and yours probably). The book can be a tad patchy as we continuously jump through the years and onto different characters, but I enjoyed that.

Mostly we delve into Alice's world, her family life growing up, the two relationships that shaped her, and her own personal battles through diary entries. My personal favourite snippets throughout the book. We also follow Luke, the boyfriend who writes out their story on the notes of his laptop. Then there is Megan, the best friend who is writing through her grief via a blog. And finally, Professor Jeremy Crooke, the man writing letters to a friend explaining the story of Alice in it's entirety; from start to finish. But how is he involved? Ahh, you'll have to read to see. These four mentioned characters are arguably the defining voices of the story. But as well as them, we have online forums of students speaking of their own theories, Alice's published work that gives us glimpses into how she sees the world, scripted police tapes of people/witnesses who speak of their final encounters with Alice, texts and voice mail messages of conversations between characters, tweets, articles theorising her death, and so much more. 

To be perfectly honest, I was a tad bit sceptical when I went into this as I doubted whether you could connect to any character when you aren't properly being put into their world, but if anything, this way of story telling caused you to have a more realistic feel of the characters and their thoughts. It fascinated me, the notion that you can find so much about someone in the modern day world without ever having to meet them. That you could do so with anyone who puts pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard, or picks up a camera and vlogs. Nowadays our personal character is also put online for the world to see, especially if, like me, you blog. Or you, hell, if you choose to be wordy on Facebook. 10 years ago, you would've had to have long and meaningful conversations with someone to get inside their head and find out what's rattling around in there, to know of their hopes and worries, but now? You just need to “add” or "follow" someone on a website and you get a somewhat large insight into their world. Or at the very least, the parts of their world that they choose to share. It's as scary as it is interesting.

As What She Left is a mystery, I ought to probably write something about the ending without giving away any spoilers.. Okay, I didn't love it. I guessed part of the outcome a fair few chapters before the end, but the reasoning behind said thing that happened was unexpected. Almost too unexpected. I feel as though the author ought to of hinted toward said thing during the book to make it feel not so... out of the blue. But then I suppose one could argue that doing so would of ruined it. Eh. The story was worth it for me, I didn't turn the final page disappointed and that is all I can ask for. If/after you've read the book, you'll know what I mean. Until then, I probably sound insane to you.

It's hard to say much about this story without giving away anything, so all I can do is encourage you to give it a go. Whether you're into mysteries or not. It's a page turner and has beautifully written characters, flaws and all. It is always difficult when the protagonist of the book doesn't survive, and it is worse when that happens during the first page as you know there is no turning back and no way of survival for her/him. Yet What She Left is an honourable tale for our main girl, and the journey through her life is a lovely one. One most definitely worth taking.

 If I were a blogger who rated books, it'd give it 8/10.

Thank you for reading.

- Anne x

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