Title: The Pretenders
Author: Agatha Zaza
Publisher: Agora Books
Genre: Family Drama
Published: 3rd December (paperback); ebook out now
The Pretenders is a darkly disturbing examination of family secrets, lies and the lengths people will go to to hide the truth. It is an interesting exploration of family dynamics, abuse and mental health.
SPOILER LEVEL: LOW | This review contains minor details about the characters and plot of this novel that can be found on the blurb.
#gifted | I was kindly sent a copy of The Pretenders by Peyton at @agorabooksldn in exchange for an honest review.
If you take away anything from this review, let it be this: The Pretenders is a complex and intriguing read but it is not a thriller. Don’t go into this book expecting a fast-paced, action-packed thriller novel; it isn’t dramatic, filled with twists, turns and violence. This is not a bad thing, though. Instead, The Pretenders is a calm, unsettling and intricate web of lies and secrets, teased out slowly through the novel’s progression. Information is unveiled delicately, gradually revealed through a multi-perspective narrative. Instead of bombshells and shock twists, there is a much cleverer (and more sinister) slow descent of a normal day descending into chaos and tragedy.
I really enjoyed the book and appreciated it even more – I did make the mistake of expecting a thriller, which initially left me a little disappointed; however, as I thought more about it, I appreciated the cleverness and intricacy of the plot and characters. The exploration of character dynamics is incredibly interesting and I loved the way it is told through multiple perspectives, allowing the reader to see the same six characters through several different lenses.
“I’m perfectly happy lying to myself…If it means getting to stay with you.”
I don’t want to give anything away with regards to the plot, so all I’ll say is that it is intriguing throughout and I remained invested in the characters and their development. I wasn’t completely hooked – a lot of the information is hinted at strongly enough that accurate guesses can be made so I wasn’t desperate to keep reading, but I was interested to see how everything played out.
I really liked the portrayal and exploration of mental health – including depression and eating disorders – and domestic abuse. It was really interesting to see this explored in some depth, particularly from both internal and external narratives. I did find the ending somewhat unsatisfying from this angle, with a lot left unresolved but, at the same time, I think it fitted the novel.
Overall, The Pretenders was a really interesting read and I’ll look forward to more from Agatha Zaza. Thanks again to Peyton at Agora Books for sending me a copy of this one.
Let me know if you’ve read or are planning to read this one – I’d love to know your thoughts