About the Book:
People disappear when they most want to be seen.
Jess Walker, middle child of a middle class family, has perfected the art of vanishing in plain sight. But when she arrives at a concrete university campus under flat, grey, East Anglian skies, her world flares with colour.
Drawn into a tightly-knit group of rule breakers – led by their maverick teacher, Lorna Clay – Jess begins to experiment with a new version of herself. But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken as they share secrets, lovers and finally a tragedy. Soon Jess is thrown up against the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?
‘But mainly we just talked, in a way I never really had with someone older than me, maybe not really with anyone before. And in that way that makes what you see, what you feel, so raw and right and fragile that you worry, if you shift too much in your seat or go to the bathroom, you’ll break it, whatever it is.’
If you look up this book online, you are going to see this tagline: The Secret History meets Agatha Christie. I haven’t read The Secret History, although I am a fan of Donna Tartt and it is on my digital TBR shelf. I’ve never actually read an Agatha Christie either, although I get the gist having spent a brief time addicted to watching Poirot some years ago. I wonder though, if my experience of this novel has been more crystallised because of not having these two comparisons weighing in. While comparisons serve an obvious purpose for marketing, I find them less useful when it comes to my own reading experience. I prefer to draw my own conclusions based on my own reading experience rather than being led to it. For me, The Truants is very reminiscent of The Talented Mr. Ripley. So many times, it just gave me that vibe and two characters in particular – Lorna and Alec – were like an amalgamation of Ripley in a contemporary setting. It gives me chills just thinking about those two.
‘Between five and six p.m. is what I think of as the Loafing Hour,’ Lorna said once as she put the key in her front door and stepped into the hallway, kicking away that day’s post. ‘When caffeine is no longer a good investment but alcohol not yet a wise one. When anything you’re going to achieve that day has probably already happened and the only sensible thing to do is to sit around, shooting the shit and eating cake.’ Then, dropping down on a kitchen chair, flicking off her shoes, hand through her hair, smiling up at me: ‘The important thing is who you choose to do that with.’
I really became quite addicted to reading this novel. The writing is so elegant and precise. The story is narrated by Jess Walker and delivered in hindsight six years on. Jess meets Georgie as soon as she arrives at University and the two hit it off immediately. Not long after starting classes, Georgie begins seeing Alec and Jess strikes up a relationship with Nick. The four become a unit rarely seen apart, but Alec is not who he seems. On the periphery of this foursome is Lorna Clay, writer and teacher; utterly idolised by Jess, who chose her university specifically so Lorna could teach her. Like Alec, Lorna is a kaleidoscope of secrets, and the combined force of the two affect the lives of Jess and Georgie in a profoundly tragic way. Poor Nick simply becomes collateral damage. There is a finite focus on disappearing within this novel and parallels are drawn to Agatha Christie’s own temporary disappearance. This is very much a novel for lovers of literature. Over the course of the novel, I became quite attached to Jess and found myself worrying about her and Georgie. I wanted to reach into the pages and physically break the hold Lorna had over her. It is sickening how manipulative some people can be. I could completely understand why Jess became so obsessed with understanding the truth behind what had been done to her by Alec, and then Lorna. I would have probably felt the same way myself.
‘It was so high, I thought, higher even than it had felt when I was up there. Just a few days ago, everything about the house had been part of the romance of Lorna: its remoteness, to which only the favoured few were granted access. Now I saw it as a symbol of her arrogance. Perched up there, seeming so natural with its earth-coloured walls. But it was just a different kind of ivory tower after all. One from which she looked down on the rest of us mortals, choosing and then discarding us at whim.’
I highly recommend The Truants. Human nature and the precarious balance between acceptance and uniqueness is examined with a close focus on the deceptions employed by people who are intent on reconfiguring themselves – collateral damage be damned. It was very much my kind of literary experience.
Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with a copy of The Truants for review.
About the Author:
Kate Weinberg lives in London with her husband, her two children, and a tortoise called Agatha. The Truants is her first book.
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Released 3rd September 2019