on July 17th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers
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The fear all men have that there’s something inside us that shifts, and turns. A living thing, once dormant, stirring now, and filled with rage.
Not quite as good as You Will Know Me, in my opinion, but still another great example of why Megan Abbott is one of my favourite authors.
I can’t recall any writer this adept at crafting complex, flawed female characters and the relationships between them. Abbott crawls deep inside the female brain – to all its dark places, thoughts and jealousies – and captures it in such a way that I can feel the story getting under my skin. Her novels are novels of atmosphere and a creeping impossible-to-ignore sense of wrongness under the mundanity.
“Haven’t you ever done something in the blink of an eye and then realized it was wrong? That it was all wrong?”
Give Me Your Hand is about the friendship and rivalry between two bright and brilliant women – Kit and Diane. As teens, they were inseparable, with Diane fueling Kit’s ambition and offering the drive she needed to stay on track for the Severin scholarship. Dr Severin is famous for her studies on female disorders, and particularly PMDD – PMS’s nastier and more debilitating sister.
After Diane reveals a dark secret to Kit, their friendship falls apart and the girls go their separate ways, both to successful careers. In the “now”, Kit is employed in Dr Severin’s lab and working her ass off to get onto the research team for PMDD. Everything seems to be going well until Dr Severin hires an amazing researcher from Harvard. Diane, of course. Then, Kit’s life gets turned upside down again.
Abbott combines the difficulties of being a woman with a tense, slow-burn thriller. She gradually lifts the curtain on Diane’s secret, piece by piece, until I was dying to know what happened. And Diane herself is allowed to be a bit sinister, a bit villainous, without ever feeling like a caricature.
This book is about the power of secrets, the past’s habit of coming back to haunt you, and also the fine line between female friendship and rivalry (as most of Abbott’s thrillers are). It’s something that fascinates me. Women often have deep, all-encompassing friendships built on loyalty and sharing secrets, but we are also pitted against one another. When two female celebrities wear the same dress, it’s all about who wore it best. There has to be a winner; some kind of hierarchy. It’s so easy for friendship to turn sour; for an ally to become a rival.
The raw, ugly, mottled things you fear about yourself in your most private moments—what happens when someone says them aloud to you? The feeling like your skin slipped from your body, showing everything, red and veined.
At the root of this book, there are so many themes of female passion, ambition, and weakness. Everything from the casual misogyny of the male scientists to the PMDD present obstacles for women, and I really liked how every single female character who walks into this book shines with her own distinct personality. Even the female detective – who we should view as an enemy of the protagonists – is likable in her brief scenes.
I can’t quite decide if Abbott thinks that women are wonderful, worthy of the utmost admiration, or if she thinks they are as ferocious and terrifying as men have suspected all along. It’s probably a bit of both.