If You Knew Her

Written by Emily Elgar

Review written by Maureen Carlyle


If You Knew Her
Sphere
RRP: £7.99
Released: Aug 24 2-17
PBK

This is the paperback edition of a first novel which was almost guaranteed to be a bestseller.  Reminiscent in many ways of The Girl on the Train, in that it has an ingenious plot, intelligently written, features a cast mainly consisting of young and successful married people, and whose conversations are littered with expletives.

It differs from Paul Hawkins’ novel in that it is narrated by three of the main characters, one of whom is not young.  The three are all connected because they all spend most of their time in Ward 9B (Intensive Care Unit) in St. Catherine's Hospital in a wealthy part of South East England; two of them as patients and the third is a staff nurse in charge of the ICU ward.

The lead character is Cassie, a young married woman (whose narrative is the story leading up to her being in a coma in ward 9B).  She is bright and artistic, and did well at university.  Her dearly loved mother was a hippie in her youth.  Cassie never knew her father, who was a one-night-stand her mother had during a visit to America.  She has died recently from cancer (having married not long before her death).  Cassie's grief has been eased by meeting and marrying the charming Jack, a successful businessman.  Jack has a widowed mother, Charlotte, who in many ways has become a substitute for Cassie's own mother.  Jack can't stand Cassie's stepfather, but Cassie has some sympathy for him.  The novel opens with Cassie being hit by a car on a lonely country road in the middle of the night, and knocked into a fast-flowing stream, where she was found by a close-friend, Jonny, and admitted to ward 9B ICU due to her coma.

Equally important is Alice, the staff nurse, who is wonderfully caring and is also happily married.  Her one great sadness is that she has had several miscarriages and it seems she will never be able to bear a child.  She is in constant disagreement with the intensive care consultant, who is firmly of the view that the coma patients in the ward will never regain consciousness and eventually have to have their machines switched off.

The third narrator is one of the coma patients, Frank, who despite appearing to be in a coma actually has locked-in syndrome.  He cannot move a muscle, but can see everything in front of his eyes and hear every conversation in the ward.  He has had a stroke resulting from alcoholism.  As the plot develops he realises that Cassie is in danger and he desperately needs to communicate this to Alice. 

This story can't fail to grip, and the nail-biting climax is far from conventional - but it engages thought, deep thought.



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