Pages (Paperback): 448 pages
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Released: August 24, 2010
Quick Thoughts: First, let me thank Penguin Canada for providing me with this review copy. I've been wanting to read Sophie Hannah's books for awhile now and this one was a great place to start.
Review: Helen Yardley, a mother who was wrongfully convicted of killing her two children, is killed. Sarah Jaggard, who was acquitted of charges of killing the child she babysat, is attacked. Rachel Hines, another mother wrongfully convicted of killing her two children, just wants to be left alone. Dr. Judith Duffy, the woman who helped send Helen and Rachel away and almost did the same for Sarah, doesn't want to be bothered by anyone.
Fliss Benson, who was just been 'promoted' to executive producer, took over the responsibilities of producing a documentary about the three women and how the Dr. Judith Duffy destroyed their lives.
When Helen is murdered, the police find a single white card with sixteen numbers on it. The same card that Sarah received after her attack and the one that Fliss keeps receiving in the post. But what do the numbers mean and how does it link the four women together?
Final Thoughts: A Room Swept White was an interesting look at infanticide and the aftermath of families who were wrongfully convicted. There are two sides to every story and I felt like Hannah did a good job making me not hate Judith. I came into the novel thinking that I would dislike the woman who sent innocent women to jail, but the more I read about her, the more I liked her. I don't know if this was because of the hate many of the characters had for her caused me to feel bad and therefore like her, or if it was because knew that this was fiction, and therefore, didn't have to feel guilty for liking her.
Her reasons for sending her testimony were valid, through her eyes, and even though she was wrong, she wasn't, if that makes sense. If I were one of the mothers or a member of their family and friends, I would hate her too though. I did feel guilty that the more I read her accounts, the more I started to doubt Helen and her innocence.
My biggest complaint is the character of Fliss. The book starts with an interview and then a news article about Helen's death. After reading about these, you want to know what will happen next, but then the novel introduces Fliss and the flow was lost on me. Her parts are in first person, when everything else is written in third. This was the biggest reason why the story threw me off when I got to her parts. I’d be reading a news article, or about what the police are doing, and then the novel would switch to first person and it was slightly awkward to read. I did get use to this as the novel went by, but at first, it was challenging. It's not until she meets Rachel when her parts become more interesting, and even then, it's not due to her, but her surroundings.
There are some questions that weren't answered, especially about the police or if Helen really did kill her kids (gosh I feel bad writing this), but overall I enjoyed my time reading the novel. It's thought provoking, intriguing, and has a nice mix of drama with suspense. I loved the Hannah included news articles, interviews, and book excerpts, these were my favourite parts of the novel and it made the situation feel more serious and heavy. I look forward to reading more books by Sophie Hannah.
Grade: 8 out of 10
Read the shorter version of this review at 5 Line Reviews.