Review: Under The Influence by Jacqueline Lunn

Title: Under The Influence

Author: Jacqueline Lunn

Published: Vintage Books (Random House Australia) May 2011

Synopsis: The past is never history.  Eve Hardy is exactly where she wants to be in life. She is a successful concert cellist for the Royal Opera, living with her handsome partner in his London apartment. Everything is possible. Sarah lives in Sydney with her husband and two young children. She thrives on being the centre of their world. When the sudden death of their old school friend Meg brings them back together for her funeral in country New South Wales, it is time to face the past and the secret they all shared. A secret that began at boarding school with that girl, Rebecca Thornton – beautiful, wanted, gifted at maths, English and spotting losers who didn’t know they were losers yet. A schoolgirl secret that changed the women they became. Sometimes, you can bury your past. Sometimes, the past tries to bury you

Status: Read from January 11 to 12, 2012

My Thoughts:

The narrative of Under The Influence spans almost twenty years and weaves in and out of time and place. The tragic death of Meghan reunites old school friends Evie and Sarah in the dusty outback for her funeral. The three girls had met at a small exclusive boarding school in Sydney as 12 year olds and formed a friendship, with Meghan at it’s center. Under the Influence is a interesting novel exploring the themes of friendship, guilt and the inescapable spectre of the past.

As the story unwinds we learn the history of the girls friendship, their experiences at boarding school, the shocking secret that they have kept hidden and the insidious effects their past has had on their life. Though the viewpoint is omniscient, it is Eve who becomes the central figure of the novel.
As adults Eve, Sarah and Meghan have drifted apart. Eve has been living in London, a cellist in the Royal Orchestra. Sarah is settled in the suburbs of Sydney with her husband and young children while Meghan, a doctor, rarely stayed long in any one place. Reuniting at the funeral brings long buried memories to the fore.
For Eve, boarding school was both wonderful and hellish. Quiet and lacking in confidence, her close friendship with Meghan, who also came from a small country town, meant everything to her but when Meghan won a scholarship to study abroad for a year Eve’s life was made hellish by Rebecca Thornton, a ‘day’ girl who relentlessly bullies Eve. Lunn captures the torment Eve experiences in brutal detail, and shows how those experiences influences Eve even decades later.
Sarah’s home was only streets away from the school yet she boarded because of her parent’s claim that their careers didn’t offer the stability Sarah needed. Sarah was part of, but always peripheral, to Meghan and Eve’s friendship and secretly resented Eve. Sarah’s characterisation is the most subtle, her role in events is never made explicit but slowly awareness creeps in as the story progresses.

While Under The Influence is novel of contemporary drama, there are glimmers of humour and mystery. The plot is revealed in fragments of time and character that urge you to keep turning the pages and though it is a little slow in parts, patience is rewarded with a shocking revelation. It is the complex characters who will ensnare you though, provoking a range of emotions, they are not easy to forget.

Under the Influence is an absorbing novel in which Lunn unravels the past to make sense of the present. Beautifully crafted and thought provoking this is a strong debut novel from a new Australian author.

Available To Purchase

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mari (Bookworm with a View)
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 00:42:53

    Sounds like you enjoyed this one, even with 3 1/2 stars. I will keep it on my TBD list, hopefully I will find a copy to read this year (or buy one for vacation).

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:36:25

      I am so stingy with stars LOL I debated between 3 and a half and 4 for about an hour. I went with three and a half because it is just a touch slow and I’m not sure it would appeal to everyone

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  2. Stepping out of the Page
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 02:01:00

    I love contemporary books. I’m glad that you thought this one was okay, even if it could’ve been better. Such an insightful review, thank you! 🙂

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  3. Patty
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 03:01:56

    This one ounds really good…

    Like

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  4. Patty
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 03:02:28

    Well…that was supposed to be sounds…

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    Reply

  5. Jenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 15:54:37

    I don’t read much contemporary fiction (assuming romance and mysteries sit in their own genres)…the tangled loyalties sound interesting, but I’m not sure if I’d have the patience to wait for the big reveal…I have been known to flick to the end of a mystery to discover early who killed the victim. 😉 Thanks for the review, Shelleyrae.

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  6. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 17:57:10

    Thanks for the review, Shelleyrae. I read a book early last year that did the whole secrets between friends and big reveal thing, and think that it can be a tough one to pull off. It can be hard not to make the reveal anticlimactic, as well as ensuring that the reader doesn’t become frustrated about not knowing what the secret is for so long.

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  7. VeganYANerds
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 09:15:12

    I really like the sound of this book and I love contemporary fiction – great review 🙂

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  8. laurelrainsnow
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 08:31:03

    I do enjoy books about friendships, secrets, and betrayal. This one sounds like one I’d love….

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  9. Trackback: Review: The Unknown Woman by Jacqueline Lunn | book'd out

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