Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone


I stayed up until about 2am finishing this book. I knew from the beginning that I was going to like it, but it took me until about halfway through the book that I realized I was going to love it. As other reviews have mentioned, this book employs a really unusual narrative style. The two sisters, Cat and El, grew up with a childhood that was heavily tangled up in their magical world of makebelieve, called Mirrorland. So in the present day, when Cat comes back to Scotland after finding out that her twin sister has gone missing, and she finds out that her sister is now living in their old childhood home, the past bubbles up to the present, until fantasy and reality collide.

Once I got used to the fairytale-but-not-really narrative, I really liked the book. MIRRORLAND is what my friend Heather and I like to call a FULT (a Fucked Up Lady Thriller). Catriona is a deeply flawed and traumatized woman. As she looks into her sister's disappearance and fights against her attraction to her widower (and their old childhood friend/mutual crush), she starts to remember things that she half-forgot. And she starts receiving secret notes and emails warning her that she NEEDS to remember. That she is, in fact, in terrible danger.

This is one of those books where it's better to know less going in because the payoff simply won't be as good otherwise. MIRRORLAND kind of reminded me of a cross between WHITE OLEANDER and COLD LIGHT, but with some of that allegorical Pan's Labyrinth and MirrorMask pseudo-fairytale atmosphere woven in for spice, to give this an interesting spin on the more typical Gillian Flynn-esque formula of a woman coming back to her hometown to confront her disturbing past. There are TWs for a lot of seriously messed up shit in this book, and even though some people like to say TWs aren't spoilers, in this case, they really are and would spoil the mystery. That said, I would advise people who are sensitive to abuse not to pick up this book. It goes to some very dark places.

What a brilliant clusterfuck of a thriller. The ending was absolutely perfect and alternately made me tear up/gave me chills. I can't wait to read other books by Ms. Johnstone. She's a vastly underrated talent.

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

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