The relationship between mentor and protégé is often a complex one, founded at least in part on mutual respect and admiration for the other’s work, but it can quickly sour when personal feelings become intertwined. In Sarah Stovell’s Exquisite, successful author Bo Luxton sees the potential in young writer Alice Dark, and recommends her for a full scholarship at a writing retreat. When the two meet they are drawn to each other, and find their fascination with each other goes deeper than the writing itself.
This psychological thriller reveals the thin line between admiration and obsession. It demonstrates how easy it can been to cross that line, but also how easy it is to lie to ourselves, and convince ourselves that the reality we live in is the only reality that exists. Writers are skilled at creating narratives, and weaving together a story, and in Exquisite that ability to present fiction as truth has damaging effects.
Alice and Bo have similarities in their past that initially draw them together. They both have mothers’ who failed them and they are both trying to compensate for that in their own way. Bo has worked hard to be an exemplary mother to her own children, to prove she’s nothing like the woman who raised her, and Alice lives with a man who she can take care of and nurture in the way she never was. Despite their troubled childhoods, they both have a talent for writing, taking their pain and turning it into something creative, something they can use as a weapon.
The perspective switches between Alice and Bo, and it’s fascinating to see how differently they see their relationship and how they edit the narrative to fit that viewpoint. Alice is desperate to love and be loved, and Bo has spent her life manipulating the facts to suit her. It’s natural that when the two collide they might find discord when their two realities don’t match up.
I would say more, but I would hate to give anything away. All I’ll say, is that thrillers aren’t usually my go to genre, but I was gripped by this book’s dark psychology.