Come and chat to LOUISE DOUGHTY about Apple Tree Yard (and all her previous books), TONIGHT, 9-10pm

(155 Posts)

'It is about the fine line women walk’. That’s how Hilary Mantel described our January Book of the Month by Mumsnet Academy speaker Louise Doughty. APPLE TREE YARD opens with a trial, where Yvonne (52, a well-known geneticist, attractive, happily married) is giving evidence. Yvonne has had a sexual encounter with a man about whom she knows nothing. Her one moment of madness pulls her into an increasingly alarming web of violence and brutality. A brilliantly addictive combination of courtroom drama, crime thriller and literary psychological novel, APPLE TREE YARD is perfectly structured. It is also a fascinating study of how society views an attractive woman in her 50s, and the injustices and manipulations of our justice system. Lots of hidden twists, so be careful not to give the game away…

You can find more, including Louise’s interview with Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4’s Open Book and a profile of her in the Telegraph, on Louise's highly informative website or read an interview with Louise and her editor on Faber's website.

Faber have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters – to claim yours please fill in your details on the book of the month page. We’ll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you’re not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Louise (author of seven novels, including Whatever You Love, and her non-fiction book A Novel in a Year, based on her hugely popular newspaper column) will be joining us and answering questions about APPLE TREE YARD, her writing career and her previous novels on Tuesday 28 January, 9-10pm.

So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we will see you all here, Tue 28 January.

sparkysparkysparky Mon 13-Jan-14 13:44:23

Apologies for half baked message before this one. Fingers slipped ! Did Louise base her description of of George's father on someone she knows?A man of his likely age would, if he. Also, it had MS , not be in "early stage "

sparkysparkysparky Mon 13-Jan-14 14:27:42

Apologies for failing to post a full message (above).
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I loved the challenge of judging (and not judging) Yvonne as the plot unfolded.
My only criticism is of the description of George's father as being in early stage MS. It jarred with me.
If you have only recently been diagnosed with MS ( I got my diagnosis 3 years ago), it would be too soon to characterise it as a progressively degenerative condition (as was the implication here by the use of the term "early stage"). It is also unlikely that a man of George's father's likely age would have only had a recent diagnosis. I'm in my 40s and am a bit of late starter for MS. I'm guessing this character would be in his late 50'/early 60's.
My questions for Louise is - Did you base George's father on someone you know with MS?
I concede that the description of George's father may match somebody - MS is too capricious a condition to be the same for everyone. However, it would be unusual to be such a late starter and for the diagnosis of progressive MS (there are other versions) to be so clear.
This minor character also had me asking myself whether I would exaggerate the extent of my condition - demand a wheelchair - if I thought it would increase the likelihood that my allegedly evil son's killers would be punished? It added an extra dimension to my "what would I do in this scenario?" sessions that I had when considering Yvonne and other major characters.

sherazade Mon 13-Jan-14 19:45:56

SPOILER ALERT

Thank you mumsnet for my free copy of this riveting book! I have to say I have not carefully and slowly savoured every word of a novel for a very long time. I thought it very clever how our own hypocrisy and prejudices are unveiled throughout the course of the story. We are quick to judge Yvonne for her actions and are lead to pity her husband for her betrayal : 'a kindly man... large and balding', only to shortly discover that he is the one who has been breaking her heart all along with absolutely no remorse. The stark hypocrisy is blinding: his long standing affair conveniently carries on without drama, the results of hers are unspeakably disastrous. We are heartbroken along with her, when she reveals in her moment of utter despair, that she has never begged him for anything, and even her wish for him to leave his young lover as always been nothing more than a request, so subtly and humbly worded, with his interests at heart: 'Could he please, for both our sakes, finish it with his young lover, for once and for all'. Here is a woman who is so completely selfless and dedicated to her husband and family. Her only urgent plea in the entire lifetime of their marriage is that he stays away from her trial so that he and the children are protected from the awful revelation and possible humiliation. I thought that her characterisation throughout this novel was excellent.

I do have one quesiton regarding her however:

Was Yvonne mentally unhinged? The clues that point towards this possibility are her family history of mental illness, the fact that she reflects on her mothers own suicide and her sons's suicide without ever looking 'inwardly' at herself. She is so consumed by the motivations of others (constantly trying to deconstruct her lovers actions and intentions, constantly trying to figure out what makes her son tick and why he does what he does) but she very rarely unpacks her own actions and choices, leaving the reader to question whether she is capable of doing so. Her lover commites an obvious crime when he returns to the car with his clothes changed and she brushes over what could have happened, momentarily dipping into why, in hindsight, she never asked him what had happened and then quickly escaping the issue.

The other factor is that she was clearly enraged by the rape and expressed a desire to have the rapist killed and suggests to her lover that he murder him. (Although I have never been in this position so...)

Thirdly, she refers to the man who ultimately betrays her as 'my love' throughout the novel having full knowledge of the potential consequences for his betrayal. The thread that runs throughout the novel is the secrecy of their relationship, at several points in the story he reminds her that nobody must ever know that they were lovers. She sticks to her end of the bargain with the utmost fervour and it is him who betrays her in the end. Why then does she still refer to him with an irrational, almost manic tenderness throughout her retelling of her harrowing trial in court?

Thanks mumsnet once again for the opportunity to read this wonderful book and to Louise Doughty for having written it. A great choice for book of the month!

Looking forward to the chat, but I just have to day how much I loved reading this book. I couldn't put it downm hence some very late nights! Can thoroughly recommend

brendarenda Tue 14-Jan-14 12:26:01

Spoiler alert
Like others, I really loved this book and thought it was a great choice.
I struggled a bit at first to understand Yvonne's reasons for falling for such an unappealing man as Mark. Their sexual encounters were all on his terms, and she was largely powerless throughout the relationship. But there is obviously something strangely appealing about not being in the driving seat, perhaps especially for a woman like Yvonne who was used to being in control.
Later on we discover that Yvonne feels she was open to Mark's advances because she had fallen out of love with her own 'competence'. She was very able in lots of ways and in control and had coped and juggled for years and then perhaps just wanted to let go.
Was this something that Louise was interested in exploring? The idea that when we fall for someone, it might say more about our own situation than the person we happen to fall in love with?
I was also intrigued by the male characters and the way they evolved throughout the book. The husband starts off safe and predictable, then we find out he’s an adulterer, but he morphs into a bit of a hero by the end. The lover is mysterious and sexually exciting before being revealed to be a sad Walter Mitty character who ultimately betrays Yvonne to save his own sorry skin. The affable colleague turns into a violent rapist. None of these characters occupies a set role. Instead they all switch between different positions, leaving the reader with an uncomfortable feeling of shifting sands. Maybe this is the point? Like someone else said, it’s playing around with the idea of judgement and our desire to judge others in black or white (guilty/not guilty) versus the reality of lots of grey.

ireadnovels Tue 14-Jan-14 13:56:54

I loved how the whole story of Apple TreeYard was full of drama. It's wickedly entertaning. I am looking forward to Lousie Douglas next novel.

bunnybing Tue 14-Jan-14 14:19:39

Really enjoyed Apple Tree Yard, especially the court scenes and the interplay between the legal professionals, defendants and witnesses.

One thing I wondered - did you always intend to make Yvonne's husband Guy an adulterer, or did you decide that later on, based on a decision to make Yvonne seem more sympathetic to your readers than if she'd taken a lover without this as a precedent?

Headinbook Wed 15-Jan-14 11:22:30

I read this through in one sitting, so quickly, in fact, that I had to go back to re-read the final 30 pages to take in the detail rather than racing to find out what happened!

Like everyone else, the book left me unsettled. At the outset, the characters and their lives seem fixed and set: they are a collection of "types". By the end, that apparent certainty and stability is all gone for the reader, just as we've learned while reading that they were only illusions at best for the characters themselves.

Have lent it on to a friend who's similarly hooked; looking forward to the chat later this month.

sherazade Wed 15-Jan-14 12:17:48

a question on behalf of a colleague

Did Mark genuinely love Yvonne and was she the one who was using him to her advantage? And did Yvonne see their relationship as purely sexual and did she remain emotionally detached from ?

sherazade Wed 15-Jan-14 12:18:04

from him sorry!

Southeastdweller Wed 15-Jan-14 15:12:28

Just finished this, the most enjoyable book I've read for years.

Looking forward to the web chat in two weeks and will think of a question beforehand.

I see from Louise's website that the TV rights have already been sold - I'm thinking Alex Kingston or Lesley Sharp would make a good Yvonne.

WowOoo Thu 16-Jan-14 13:54:45

I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

I love how the lead character is a succesful woman in science.
I thought the court scenes were fantastic. All the digging for dirt.
I also liked how the characters were human and flawed. None of them were perfect and there was not one character that was obviously the hero/heroine.
I was a bit shocked how a woman who has so much going for her - a fantastic career in science being one - could risk everything for a man. I've never had an extra marital affair. I suppose I can understand that someone can be so infatuated they are willing to risk everything.

Going to read Louise Doughty's other books. Hope they are as gripping.

shaktar Fri 17-Jan-14 14:39:50

I was completely gripped by this book and found myself staying up far too late last night to finish it: the pace and the way the author controls it's leaks and troughs are incredible.

I rally enjoyed the book and found it refreshing that the main voice, despite not being someone who I felt any great warmth towards, was that of an 'older' woman who was still an attractive, sexual, intelligent, erudite creature. Without giving anything away, I found the ending a little disappointing after the tremendous build up.

SunshinePanda Fri 17-Jan-14 20:08:00

Finished yesterday. Completely gripped by this book. Agree with you, Shaktar, that it is the way that the author drop feeds information that pulls you in. I thought the ending was right although don't want to say too much yet. Just wish I could get the mother chimp image out of my mind though!

SunshinePanda Fri 17-Jan-14 20:08:50

drip feeds not drop!blush

Just finished it and it was by far the best thing I have read in a year.
At first the writing style irked me. First person /second person present tense. I wonder whether it truly adds anything to the drama?
I raced through the first 3/4 of the book but for me it went off the boil once the courtroom scene at the beginning was repeated. I read the last 30 or 40 pages with a sense of disappointment that the plot was over, although I was unprepared for the final reveal.
I too thought the mother and baby chimp story was chilling.

musicmaiden Sun 19-Jan-14 20:07:15

I found it very powerful and well written, I thought it brought up a lot of very interesting issues that made the book more than just a thriller.

My question is: what was the thinking behind the preface with its partial spoiler pointing towards the ultimate outcome? I thought it was a very curious thing to do and I felt the courtroom portion would have been a lot more shocking and unexpected without it. It was clearly a very deliberate choice on Louise's part so I'd like to understand her thinking.

aristocat Mon 20-Jan-14 13:42:19

Well, I really enjoyed this complex and thrilling book.

I loved the 'drip feed' element of the story and the fact that as the reader at the start, you are left wondering what is going on - what is the charge/ how did they end up in court and how will it all end?

I noticed that you actually went to the Old Bailey (for research purposes) and assume that helped you with the courtroom scenes .... which were brilliant! I also enjoyed the rollercoaster that was Ys and my emotions.

I found the male characters the most interesting, and how our initial perceptions of them are so inaccurate. The way we judge others and how we judge ourselves is so realistic and what makes it such a page turner.

Personally I would have enjoyed another couple of chapters reading about how Y changed. A superb book, thank you smile

At the start I thought I was going to hate it - I disliked both of the main characters, largely because I found the idea of the affair distasteful (my own issue I think.) I found Mark repellent from the very beginning and I think I just lost any respect for Yvonne for being involved with him.

However, I enjoyed the trial scenes even though I found it difficult to believe that she would lie to the court in the first place and perjure herself.

Overall though, a book about a middle age woman combining work and family and with an interest in sex is welcome.

flutterbynight Mon 20-Jan-14 21:38:09

As well as finding this book compulsive reading, I thought it was gritty, exciting and chilling - a page turner from beginning to end. I have already passed my copy to a friend and am sure she won't be the last to read it!

I would be interested to know which of her characters Louise most enjoyed inventing and writing about - obviously Yvonne is the main focus of the book and therefore presumably took most time and attention to develop, but I also found lots of the other characters intriguing and would love to have known a bit more about them!

Can I also concur with the above comment about MS. I also have MS, diagnosed for two years now and didn't recognise the idea of anyone in the "early stages" needing to be in a wheelchair. Most people with MS NEVER need a wheelchair.

Thank you to everyone above for their excellent comments and questions - I'll be forwarding them on to Louise at the end of the week.

Meanwhile, if there are any more advance questions out there, you've got until Friday to pop them up here...

Looking forward to next Tuesday 28, there's going to be a lot to discuss - see you in a week's time and very much hope you can all make it.

Gargamella Tue 21-Jan-14 23:05:27

A fantastic read. Thank you. I found this so poignant in many places. I thought I really knew the issues about how rape trials are conducted but felt shocked all over again when these came up in Yvonne's story.

I did warm to Yvonne anyway. I think it was the way she was taken in because of her need to believe in Mark.

I'm always interested in how much of a back story the characters have which the author decides not to include. I kept expecting to learn more about the son's mental health problems. Was that ever intended to be a bigger part of the novel?

RightRoyalPainInTheArse Wed 22-Jan-14 15:09:12

I thought this was an excellent book, can't join next week but just wanted to pass that on.

lolaangel Wed 22-Jan-14 17:35:14

Thankyou for choosing me to receive the book.
I have lots and lots of books that I buy because they
sound good, then unfortunately I loose interest or I'm just
too busy to read them.

This I was adamant to at least start in good time and hoped
I would finish.
I'm so glad I did, I have read it at home, in bed, in the car, whilst making tea and while changing the babies nappy!

I couldn't put it down. I have only ever read one other book
that had this affect on me. I was addicted and couldn't get to the end fast enough.

Loved it!!

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