Review: 'What We Didn't Say' by Rory Dunlop (2016)
Jack and Laura have separated. Jack thinks it's all Laura's fault.
Jack writes to Laura, desperate to put across his side of the story.
Wryly sarcastic and intensely well-observed, What We Didn't Say is about that gap between words and feelings where relationships live - and die.
This October Rory Dunlop's novel 'What We Didn't Say' was released by Bonnier Zaffre and I got a surprise when I found a review copy of the book waiting for me on my doorstep several weeks ago. The simple red/white/blue cover managed to catch my attention and when I was looking for a paperback to read on a cold October day, I pulled it out of my to-read-and-review pile and sat down with it. The book is Rory Dunlop's first novel and seems to be slightly based on some of his own experiences, so I was curious to check it out, also because I still hardly ever read books written by male authors and that's something I want to try and improve, so this seemed like a good first step in that direction...!
Jack and Laura had been together for numerous years before their marriage fell apart and they have now been separated for roughly two years. In order to try and process it all Jack has written everything down in a sort of diary, which he has sent to Laura to share his side of the story with her. Laura, who also feels that the two of them never really got closure, takes the chance and adds her own remarks and comments to Jack's writing, which results in an intriguing and realistic dialogue between husband and wife which the reader is invited to join from the sidelines.
At first I wasn't completely sure what to expect of 'What We Didn't Say'; the book description doesn't give that much away about the story, but in the end that turned out to be the right thing to do, because the short blurb does cover the main story of this book: Jack and Laura have separated after several years of being married, and they are sharing their thoughts and perspective on the break-up in a rather original form, namely a diary written by Jack with Laura's comments added to it. This concept is something I haven't seen before, and I liked its originality. The author managed to give an honest and realistic account of a modern-day relationship, and I think many readers will be able to relate one way or another to some of the things the characters do or feel, just like I did.
I can't say I really picked a side, because one of the strengths of the book is that you feel for both Jack and Laura and neither of them is perfect; they've both made mistakes, but that is what shapes a relationship. I did like Laura's sarcasm, though, which really comes through in the comments she adds to Jack's account of everything that has happened. While the novel had a promising start, I felt the story died down a bit in the middle and really dragged in specific places, which is a shame. I understand what the author wanted to do, but I personally wouldn't have minded a bit more action or perhaps another aspect added to the storyline. Overall, though, 'What We Didn't Say' is a fascinating, realistic and thought-provoking read that I enjoyed; not the novel to pick up when you're looking for a feel-good read, but definitely if you're going for something more poignant and insightful.