Sunday, 20 January 2013

Review: The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

I purchased The Engagement some months ago, as it was included as part of the Get Reading! 50 Books You Can't Put Down promotion. It ended up staying on my to-read pile (which is, in reality, a stack of books that sit atop of a white ottoman,) for months. And then I devoured the entire book in an afternoon. 

The Engagement tells the story of Liese, a young British woman who is difficult to like and who, I felt was somewhat impulsive and over-confident. After losing her job as an architect, she has travelled to Australia to work as a real estate agent for her uncle. Stuck in a mountain of debt and wanting to return home, the attractive Liese comes up with an ingenious but utterly repulsive solution. Knowing that one of her Uncle's clients, Alexander, desires her she offers him sex in exchange for money. What seems like a game continues for a while, and the Alexander asks her to stay at his country house for the weekend. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, Liese suddenly discovers that she is no longer in control of the game ...

Not to be mistaken for the numerous Fifty Shades rip-offs that have been published in recent months, The Engagement is a complex and well written psychological thriller. Although she is by means likable and in many ways morally ambiguous, it is not difficult to feel sympathy for the main character, who finds herself trapped in a frightening psychological battle with a brutal and emotionally bankrupt man. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Liese's psychological scars are many and we can only wonder what will become of this poor, confused young woman. Or if she knew what was going on the whole time and was a willing participant. (The final line in the novel is surprisingly ambivalent.)

As previously stated, I read this book over an afternoon and found myself caught up in the frightening adventure. It is by no means a romance and the ending is as cold as readers may expect. I cannot say that I liked the story, but I sure wanted to know what would happen. 

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