Thrilling and Unsettling in the Best Ways | Blog Tour + Review: The Playground by Jane Shemilt

8:30 AM

The synopsis for The Playground had me hooked with the simple comparisons to Big Little Lies and Lord of the Flies. This book... you guys... this book.

by Jane Shemilt 

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 30, 2019)

“Beautifully written and suffused with dread. Jane Shemilt’s domestic settings are seductively vivid, and the final outcome is profoundly shocking and terrifying.” — Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Playground by Jane Shemilt 
Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4.5)
As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

The winter is officially here. Which means that for some of us, it's time to bring out the extra blankets for warmth from winter's chill. And what better time than autumn and winter, than to curl up with a thriller? The Playground landed on my doorstep in the middle of autumn, and made for the perfect near-winter read. 

Thrillers require a heavy dose of complex characters and intriguing mysteries that will leave you with an uneasy feeling. The Playground manages this with grace and left me feeling as though I could hear even the faintest sound of a pin dropping. Reading it was compelling and felt not unlike I was on the edge of something major. I never knew what to expect and was truly taken for a ride.

As far as central storylines and mysteries goes, The Playground has its core group of characters that are seemingly tied together in the messiest of ways. Secrets linger between three couples and this is the driving force of the novel. What lay beneath their secrets and the lives of their children. From the moment we pick up on what is happening throughout The Playground is the moment you feel your heart begin to race.

The Playground felt like the grazing of a knife against your skin. It could puncture you at any minute. You weren't sure when, but you could feel the pressure rising and rising. You could feel it twist and press down. I felt like I was holding my breathe on a near constant basis.

Something about Jane Shemilt's writing travels into your veins in a way that makes you tense and full of questions. Her prose is more than just its tension--it is sharp, highly engaging and full of intrigue. I found myself unable to put The Playground down or even look away for a moments notice because I felt like I needed to understand what was happening.

Although a great deal of the characters weren't necessarily likable, there was something in each of them that held me captive. I can certainly see the comparisons to stories like Big Little Lies: they pack a serious punch and show the complexities of humanity, as well as dish up some shocking moments of fear. The Playground is similar only in archetype and stands on its own as a stunningly written, chilly and twisted tale, that will surely leave readers on the edge of their seats.

About the Author

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

Connect With Jane on Twitter and Instagram.

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