Review: Awakening by S J Bolton

I picked up Awakening a couple of nights ago and planned to read for 10 minutes before heading to bed. Before I knew it I was on page 162, had a crick in my neck from sitting so still and was semi-seriously pondering whether I could call in sick the next day. I’m not (quite) that irresponsible but I did stay up way too late the next night because I simply had  to  know. It’s been a while since a book hooked me like this and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Awakening is set in a small English village. One morning, Clara Benning, a wildlife vet who lives in the village, receives a desperate plea for help from a neighbour who reports a snake has made its way into her baby’s cot. Unfortunately, incidents involving snakes only increase and become more dangerous and Clara gets caught up in events in a quite terrifying way.  I’m not going to reveal any more of the plot because one of the things that made the book so gripping for me was that I didn’t know anything about what to expect next and if you should choose to read the book you should have the same chance. All I’ll say is that it was full of suspense and unexpected turns and it’s one of very, very few of the many 500+ page books I’ve read recently that I haven’t mentally edited as I read.

Another  aspect of the book that hooked me was Clara, from whose perspective the story is told. She’s clever and brave but a bit of a curmudgeon (though a young one) which would all be good enough but there’s an additional element provided by her badly scarred face.  Bolton has done a terrific job of depicting how the presence of the scarring has influenced Clara’s development and behaviour and choices in life and I found myself interested in Clara for her own sake as well as for her contribution to plot development.

There are some other good characters, including the local Assistant Superintendent and a Steve Irwin-style reptile expert and documentary maker but the other ‘character’ that really stands out is the village itself. It’s people as a collective and a dark event in its history play a key role in the story which is yet another reminder that rural life isn’t always as idyllic as the postcards would have us city girls believe.

I enjoyed S J Bolton’s first book, Sacrifice, but found Awakening even better. Once again Bolton has created a credible picture of a remote setting, filled it with interesting people and has elevated her storytelling abilities to an even better art form.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 5/5

Publisher: Transworld [2009]; ISBN: 9780552156141; Length 538  pages; Setting: England, present-day.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Awakening has also been reviewed at Euro Crime and at D J’s Krimiblog where Dorte explains how she experienced a credibility issue with the book that spoiled it a bit for her.

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6 Responses to Review: Awakening by S J Bolton

  1. So, Bernadette – did you like the book? You can be honest ; ). Seriously, though, I am very happy liked the book that well. I’ve heard from other people, too, that it’s terrific, but your recommendation caps it for me. I am going to read this book.


  2. Dorte H says:

    I agree that it was an absorbing read, and despite minor flaws, I am certainly going to follow this author. I just liked the first one better, and I remember your fascination with the problem: how does one bury a horse.


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