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Book review: The Hive by Scarlett Brade

Sarah Fairbairn reviews the debut novel of a young Walthamstow author
By Waltham Forest Echo

The Hive by Scarlett Brade (credit: Zaffre)
The Hive by Scarlett Brade (credit: Zaffre)

Summer is the time for guilt-free enjoyment of the things that really make you tick, whether that’s dancing until the small hours, spending time with friends and family or reading thrillers in which young women spiral out of control and wade remorselessly through the blood of their victims.

Scarlett Brade’s debut The Hive is every bit the classic revenge tragedy. Passionate love affairs, all-consuming jealousy, unforgiveable betrayal, and deep, sustaining friendship combine to form a plot dripping with delight in its exploration of the murkiest of human instincts. What sets it apart however is the use of social media as an unsettling and merciless Greek chorus, chiming in with comments all-too-familiar to anyone who’s ever logged on to Twitter after an episode of Love Island. Far from just observing the tragedy from afar, the digital voices in this book are invited in to make the most harrowing of decisions. If strangers behind screens can share in the story, Brade seems to be asking, why shouldn’t they also share in the responsibility?

Protagonist Charlotte Goodwin falls easily into a relationship with the tall, handsome and famous Lincoln Jackson. He appears like a modern-day Prince Charming, offering Charlotte his adoration and a life of luxury that lifts her up from the day-to-day mundanity of her job in administration at a cosmetic clinic. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends, all of whom struggle with the impact of traumas past and present, and dreams of being a mother. After escaping her own painful background, she is looking forward to the life she deserves when her plans are pulled apart by an increasingly sticky web of lies, unfaithfulness and, ultimately, violence.

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Core to the story is an examination of the techniques of a gaslighter, someone who convinces you to ignore the evidence of your own eyes and ears and believe only, desperately in them. The bloody aftermath that unfolds is hardly surprising and is depicted with a satisfaction almost bordering on glee.

The Hive is populated by a diversely-drawn cast who push and pull the narrative along to its twisty conclusion. The ultimate question the book poses is how the band of women surrounding Charlotte will choose to respond – will they support her and maintain the bonds of sisterhood, even when she’s been pushed to such brutal extremes? This bold debut clearly sets out to test the boundaries of loyalty and ask you where your own limits lie.

The Hive was published by Zaffre on 21st July and is available in major bookstores

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