Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

Opening sentence: “It should have been me.”

If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and envying – wanting – the perfect life of someone you see on there, then let Her Name Was Rose be a warning to you. A majority of the time, it’s just not real and this can be detrimental to not only the observers, but to the person posting the altered view of their life. As our lead character, Emily D’Arcy, muses at one point, ‘It’s strange how we can convince ourselves our Facebook life is our actual life – because we want it so desperately to be.’ Emily develops more than a slight obsession with the beautiful, perfect Rose Maguire for a very sinister reason: she sees her being killed. Rose steps out onto a road just before Emily and is hit by a car, but as Emily let Rose go ahead of her, she is convinced it should have been her. Wracked with guilt, she Googles Rose and finds herself being drawn more and more to her – seemingly – idyllic life. She had a gorgeous,devoted husband, Cian, a baby son and job she loved. As Rose’s death has left a job vacancy, (recently sacked) Emily starts off her (initially perhaps subconscious) Single White Female act by applying for – and getting – Rose’s job. This leads to a meeting with Rose’s husband, who takes a shine to Emily. And although she is aware it’s a strange situation, she couldn’t be more thrilled. That is, until the police begin to suspect Rose’s death was no accident and Rose’s loving husband isn’t everything he seems.

As well as the idea of how social media warps perception of ourselves and others, Her Name Was Rose also tackles the theme of abuse – both physical and psychological, asking,‘True love or obsession? Where does one end and the other begin?’ It explores the blurred boundaries of behaviour by a majority of the characters, which really adds depth to the read.

As a character, on-paper, Emily should be a little hard to like; she’s quite manipulative and, you know, seems to easily justify the idea of stepping into a dead woman’s shoes and taking over her life. She also has past form – her ex-boyfriend Ben was a rotter, but Emily didn’t handle the situation well, leaving you – the reader – to question her mental state in the past and now in her current situation. BUT despite this, you do warm to her and her fragile vulnerability comes across on every page. You really want to give her a big hug / big talking to. What’s so lovely is as the plot develops, so does Emily’s self-awareness – about who she was and who she wants to become.

A side-effect of this heatwave we’re having (in London, anyway) is that I am reading more than ever thanks to sitting in the garden much later than usual in the warm twilight. I devoured Her Name Was Rose over two nights. Set in Derry, Northern Ireland (author Claire Allan’s hometown) it has a modern writing style that’s effortless to read, covers contemporary and topical themes and the pace never lets up, so you just keep turning those pages. It’s a clever psychological thriller that not only keeps you guessing until the end, but has a complex, endearing character at its heart.

I was kindly sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

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