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13 January 2016

Review: 'The Exclusives' by Rebecca Thornton (2015)

1996. Freya Seymour and Josephine Grey are invincible - beautiful and brilliant, the two best friends are on the cusp of Oxbridge, and the success they always dreamed they'd share.

2014. Josephine hasn't heard from Freya for eighteen long and tortured years. And then Freya gets in touch, wanting to meet.

Beginning with one ill-fated night, The Exclusives charts the agonising spiral of friendship gone wrong, the heartache and betrayal of letting down those closest to you and the poisonous possibilities of what we wouldn't do when everything we prize is placed under threat. 

And in the end, as she realises she cannot run for ever, Josephine must answer one question: can she face the woman that she used to know?

I remember I really wanted to go to an all-girls boarding school in the UK when I was a little girl. I think novels and films painted a rather pretty picture of boarding schools and I imagined it would be so much fun. I never went to boarding school, though, and now I’m older I also realise it might not be as amazing as I used to think, but I do still have a certain fascination with both books and films set at boarding schools. So, when I was contacted about possibly reviewing Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel ‘The Exclusives’, which was released in December 2015 by Twenty7 and is set at a boarding school in the UK, I immediately said yes. The description of the book really grabbed my attention and I was curious to check it out. Since I only read Christmas novels in December (how many days still left to go until Christmas 2016?!), I saved ‘The Exclusives’ as one of my first reads of the new year so I had something promising to start 2016 with!

Josephine Grey and Freya Seymour used to the best of friends, back when they were attending boarding school together in the 1990s. Their days consisted of working hard, having fun, and dreaming of going to Oxford University together. Until one night when everything suddenly went wrong; one night that would change everything. Now, 18 years later, Josephine is suddenly contacted by Freya, after years of silence, asking for the two of them to meet up again. Josephine has no need to look back at the past and instead focuses on her work as an archaeologist. But as the memories slowly start to take over her mind, she comes to realise she can’t keep on running forever and there might be no other way than to face her fears straight on.

‘The Exclusives’ is a compelling read which I really enjoyed, and quite an impressive debut novel by new author Rebecca Thornton. The story is told from the perspective of protagonist Josephine Grey and is mainly set in 2014, with numerous flashbacks to 18 years earlier, 1996, when she was a student at one of the most exclusive all-girl boarding schools in the country. Together with her best friend Freya she thought she had everything she wanted, but one night changed everything and now that night and the events that followed have come back to haunt her. I loved the fact that the book was divided into two equally interesting storylines, one set at boarding school and one in the present time. The book keeps the reader guessing and while I had a few suspicions of what had happened and would happen, the author still managed to surprise me. 

I didn't fall in love with any of the characters, but I don't think that's necessary in order to enjoy a novel. I felt sympathetic towards both Josephine and Freya, but also wanted to shake them at times because of the decisions they made and things they said. The author really managed to portray the pressures of life and the slightly egoistical nature of teenagers, who are just completely focused on themselves instead of the world and other around them. Rebecca Thornton's writing style is really engaging and she tackled the challenge of keeping the reader interested and guessing until the end quite well, I think; I already look forward to reading more of her work. Overall, 'The Exclusives' is a compelling, dark and well-written coming-of-age story with a well built-up plot, a great setting, and an intriguing cast of characters; a read I really enjoyed!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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