Review: Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon


Title: Try Not To Breathe

Author: Holly Seddon

Published: Corvus Jan 2016

Status:  Read from January 19 to 20, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon’s debut novel, an interesting story of psychological suspense which has been picked up by publishers worldwide.

The story unfolds through the perspectives of three main characters; Alex Dale -a barely functioning alcoholic working as a freelance journalist, Amy -who has lain comatose for fifteen years after a brutal attack by an unidentified assailant, and Jacob -Amy’s teenage sweetheart who has never quite been able to let her go. Their lives become entwined when Alex, writing a story about a medical breakthrough in communicating with patients in a persistent vegetative state, recognises Amy from the reports of the crime at the time, and becomes obsessed with her story.

Slowly Seddon allows Alex to unravel the mystery by digging through media and crime reports and speaking with Amy’s family and friends. Despite his misgivings, Jacob, Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the attack, agrees to cooperate with Alex. He has secretly been visiting Amy regularly for the last decade and now with his wife about to give birth to their first child is desperate for closure.

There are a number of red herrings in the plot though honestly it’s not difficult to guess the identity of Amy’s attacker fairly early on. Still the author maintains the general tension well as Alex pieces the circumstances together.

Seddon’s characterisation of Alex is the star of this novel. Deeply flawed, Alex is an alcoholic whose drinking has destroyed her marriage, career and friendships. She devotes a few hours every morning to her freelance work and then begins drinking at noon til she passes out, waking up with soiled sheets and little memory of her nights, to repeat the cycle again. As Alex delves into Amy’s life she is forced to exert more control over her drinking if she has any hope of seeing justice done.

Amy’s dreamy, confused narrative meanwhile lends a real sense of poignancy to the story and ensures the reader doesn’t forget the reality of the tragedy. And though Amy’s possible level of awareness is in reality unknowable, her plight is heart wrenching.

Try Not to Breathe (though I’m at loss to explain the relevance of the title) is an impressive debut novel with an intriguing premise and well drawn characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this author develops.

Available via

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kay
    Jan 22, 2016 @ 05:49:05

    I saw something about this one recently and was considering it. It sounds worthwhile and as long as it doesn’t get bogged down in self-destructiveness of the person struggling with alcohol, I think I’d like it. Will watch for it to be published here. Wonder about that title?



  2. readingwritingandriesling
    Jan 22, 2016 @ 14:34:57

    I really enjoyed this one too Shelleyrae – I must write my review up soon.



  3. eternalised
    Jan 23, 2016 @ 02:30:26

    Sounds pleasant. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m considering it. I like suspenseful books, and this one seems to have plenty of it.

    Majanka @ I Heart Reading



  4. Deborah
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 20:17:52

    I enjoyed this as well and thought Seddon did a great job at sharing Amy’s thoughts as she lay in her coma. I probably would have liked Amy’s voice to appear a little earlier in the novel.



  5. MarthaE
    Jan 25, 2016 @ 14:00:46

    Sounds rather interesting. Thanks for sharing.



  6. stacybuckeye
    Jan 25, 2016 @ 15:32:51

    I’m always looking for great debuts. I’ll have to give this one a try.



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