Hooray, we’re finally back again for another debate, and this time, we’ve all read the book in question, so we’re going for a three-way (so to speak)!
The book in question this time is The Taking of Annie Thorne, by CJ Tudor.
If you’ve yet to hear about this book, here’s a quick summary:
Joe returns to his childhood village, ostensibly to work as a teacher, though right from the start, it's clear his return is based on far more than a desire to 'make a difference' in the local school.
As the book goes on, the reader learns about Joe's little sister Annie, who disappeared, then came back different. We also encounter a whole array of people from Joe's past - the horrible Hurst, his sick wife, plus the wonderfully brutal hitwoman, Gloria. And we also appreciate that bad things are afoot in this sleepy mining village, which aren't likely to stop any time soon...
Lucy: It’s so nice to be locking horns over books again, guys!
Karen: And what a book to debate about, eh?
Nick: It really is. I can proudly say I put you two onto it, though of course, Lucy, you were the one to get me on CJ Tudor in the first place, as I know you adored her first book, The Chalk Man.
Lucy: Do you know what though, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say The Taking of Annie Thorne is even better.
Karen: I loved it too. And so did you, Nick, didn’t you?
Nick: Ha, yes! Can you believe it, we’re all in agreement? That must be a first.
Karen: Well, let’s see what we liked about it. Where shall we start? Lucy?
Lucy: I’d like to start with what I believe is the author’s strongest skill; creating really believable characters, then putting them in horrible, scary positions. In this sense, CJ Tudor’s writing reminds me so much of Stephen King, but in a good way. I like that I’m feeling all the feels with the characters; the creeping fear when Joe realises there are hoards of beetles in the toilet, the dread of descending the mine; I’m right there with them the whole time and it all feels very authentic.
Nick: Yeah, I’d agree with that, but interestingly, I didn’t really like the characters. Joe I thought was a bit of a git to be honest, and the other characters from his past are even more vile. However, that really worked for me, especially when set against this bleak, grim landscape of Arnhill.
Karen: I felt quite empathetic towards some of the characters, though you’re right, Nick, some of them were just horrible; but it was fun to dislike them! Speaking of Arnhill, didn’t you feel like it became its own character? It was so richly conveyed; this dour, miserable ex-mining village.
Lucy: Yes, you’re right; and it also reflected the rest of the characters; like a massive mirror held up against their own actions.
Nick: You’ve gone deep again.
Lucy: Sorry! I always do that, don’t I!
Nick: You do! For me, the strongest aspect was the plot. That was a massive page-turner; I quite literally polished off the book in two sittings, which I don’t do very often. There are so many clever twists and turns; to get that many into one book is no easy task.
Karen: I was the same, completely gripped from start to finish. Though I wouldn’t recommend anyone reading it too late at night; it’s quite scary.
Lucy: Yeah, and I’m totally in agreement with this. I love it when a book yanks you in and holds your attention relentlessly. I kept trying to put the book down to do vital things like make the boys their tea, but it kept calling to me again. It was perhaps the artful weaving of the past and the present that kept me fixated; both plot-threads had me asking questions the whole time, but in a good way.
Karen: What about the fear-factor? I mean, this book is essentially a horror, after all.
Lucy: I guess so, but I’m not sure I’d be comfy classifying it as such, despite all the supernatural elements. It almost has a mystery/ thriller vibe going on too.
Nick: Come on, it’s got a haunted doll in it!
Karen: And evil beetles!
Nick: And dark, scary caves. And dead kids coming back to life.
Lucy: Yeah, alright, those are quite scary aspects of the book. But still, I’m not sure I’d say it was purely horror.
Karen: Did you find it frightening?
Lucy: Aspects were unsettling. But the doll I wasn’t too freaked out by. To be honest, the behaviour of Annie Thorne when she returns was the most frightening thing I think; I was having major sympathy for Joe at that point.
Nick: That bit was horrible, you’re right. Even I felt sorry for Joe, and as you know, I didn’t like his character much.
Lucy: I bet you liked all the 90s references, didn’t you, Nick?
Nick: Ha ha, of course; I bet you did too. Wham bars, eh?
Lucy: Ooh I used to love a good Wham bar. Do they still sell them?
Karen: That’s a good question, I haven’t seen one in years. You can still get Refresher bars; they’re similar, aren’t they?
Nick: They’re not as good, in my opinion.
Lucy: We’ve veered off topic here! So, retro sweets aside, how many stars would you give this book?
Karen: I’m going with a big fat flawless five out of five stars.
Lucy: Me too, I loved it.
Nick: Somewhere between a four and a half and a five. Which for me is very high indeed. Nice one, CJ Tudor, we’ve all unanimously agreed that we thought it was awesome. I hope she writes another one quickly!