To the outside world, Helen has everything a gorgeous acting husband Alex, two perfect children Emma and Jo, a job as a journalist that she enjoys so why does she threaten to risk it all.
Meeting Graham Parks an ex-Army soldier when interviewing him regarding his book, Helen suddenly starts to feel things that she has never felt before. Why does she feel this way about a plain looking, balding man who is everything that her husband is not? Thoughts start to come and go, and the book is devoted to this will she give in and find out if things could be different after all this time.
I found the book very much a book of thoughts. It was if we were in Helen’s mind as she went over all the ifs, buts and maybe. The excitement of receiving text messages or emails and knowing you were the only one who knew. The justification of the lies made to seem like truths so conscience is clear as appoints are made, lunches are taken, brief flitting encounters are held.
Helen knows she has everything and will lose it all? But whilst she has caught herself up in this cycle of thoughts, around her others are having their own crises. Alex’s role in the daytime soap has got bigger and there is a new actress, well known who seems to be threatening the equilibrium that Helen thinks her and Alex have, despite Helen’s own thoughts. These thoughts create situations where this none and a reason for her flirtation could now be justified.
Helen’s friend Katie does what Helen is afraid to do and with consequences which makes Helen realise everything she has can be lost on one action. Katie is as much as Helen is caught in her web of thoughts and I think this parallel story could have been developed more, than it was, by the end it left me wanting more.
This is a debut novel and as such, I think it is okay. I did find it a bit hard going, not from the writing itself but from the lack of pace which I felt the story lacked. It is no doubt a modern novel, about problems that all of us perhaps face at one time or another. The misunderstandings, the lies we tell ourselves as well as our loved ones. This book makes you think more than your average chick-lit which sadly I think this book will be labelled with. A more grown up book, where you wonder if what you have in life is the best, and what it would be like to try something different.
Lizzie Enfield is a journalist and regular contributor to national newspapers and magazines. What You Don’t Know is her first novel.
I wonder whether I was in the right frame of mind and place to be reading this book. I felt very trapped inside Helen’s head as she struggled with what life had thrown into her path. It was a thought provoking book which I am honest to say I did not expect, therefore I felt that perhaps it was very brave of Helen to share these innermost thoughts with us. As individuals we think all the time, and I know when thought processes can go a bit askew it feels like they will never go away.
I would be interesting to hear from anyone else who has read this book and what they thought?