Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward
28th Feb 2011
Close Your Eyes is Amanda Eyre Ward’s fourth novel, following the critically acclaimed Forgive Me and How to be Lost. It weaves the stories of two women, Lauren and Sylvia, both struggling to cope in the modern USA.
Despite being both losing their mothers as children, their lives are not hard but complicated; unable to cope in their relationships, juggling financial and emotional burdens. This is not just a murder mystery, but a story of women in a time of recession and suicide bombers.
Lauren takes the centre stage in what begins as the commentary of a family deconstructing. A well-written, believable but ultimately pitiable character, she clings to a nostalgic version of a childhood destroyed by the murder of her mother, and subsequent incarceration of her father.
Her therapy-induced flashbacks and fond memories of her father hint at the fact that she saw more of the crime than she is allowing herself to remember, but her denial of her father’s innocence is placing pressure on her bonds with her long-suffering boyfriend, and idealistic brother.
Her reasons for doubting her father are never quite clear and her inability to convince herself (and therefore the reader) of her true problems and their roots makes her an unreliable narrator of the crime.
To contrast we are given Sylvia, a far more grounded protagonist who makes a welcome addition, along with several juicy clues that hint to her being the key to solving the mystery.
Here Ward has created a strong female character who, although apparently being a pushover prior to the start of the novel, is now out to reclaim control of her life.
Ward focuses very much on Sylvia’s thoughts and memories. The concise but purposeful descriptive style she uses is very effective at giving away just enough information to keep the reader interested.
Sylvia’s focus on finding her childhood friend Victoria, and the ambiguity surrounding their intense but now abandoned relationship becomes more intriguing than the whodunnit of the main plot. This of course is Ward’s effective way of bringing focus back to the plot which does drag a little along the Lauren-focused middle chapters.
Although the ending was a little abrupt, this works to Ward’s favour, leaving you wanting more information but not feeling unsatisfied with the pieces given. The whole novel is a tightly wound mystery, with subtly placed clues throughout.
It was a pleasure to read and despite minor annoyance at the character of Lauren, I wanted to reach the ending, not only to find out who was truly responsible for the original crime, but also to see how knowing the truth would serve as an opportunity for character development. These are characters that you very quickly become concerned for, and want to ultimately escape the cycles of bad luck that they seem entwined in.
Recommended for: Readers who wouldn’t normally go for mystery novels – this is much more of an angst-filled family drama that just happens to revolve around a murder.