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The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

Two people. How many lies?17307935

Liese Campbell has an engagement for the weekend: Alexander Colquhoun, a handsome, well-mannered farmer, is paying for her to stay at his property in remote Australia. Liese, an English architect in flight from the financial crisis, has been working at her uncle’s estate agency in Melbourne, where Alexander is looking for a place to buy. The luxury apartments Liese shows him become sets for a relationship that satisfies their fantasies – and helps pay her debts. It’s a game. Both players understand the rules. Or so she thinks.

Across the ancient landscape they drive at dusk to his grand decaying mansion. Here Liese senses a change in Alexander, and realises a different game has begun.

Chloe Hooper’s riveting and provocative new novel is a psychological thriller for the modern age, an exploration of the snares of money and love and the dark side of erotic imagination. A trap has been set, but how and why? And for whom?

My Review

To the undiscerning eye this couple may seem an ordinary pair,
but behind that picket-fence lurks a very sordid affair.
Melancholic and disturbing, a psychological tale that will unravel misjudgements and the reader put amidst a delirium and wonder at who is the concocter.
The story has you feeling for the woman and sometimes pity for the man in this story, an example of reeling another soul into a trap, a deception, actors on a stage.
A real stick with you tale, you will be musing over who is the actor and who is the real deal.
The author has you in the story from the beginning and has you intrigued to the end in this well crafted story about a trap of passion and love, even if it be a disturbed vision of it.

“Suddenly I was conscious of being beneath this sky moving in colour coded fronts across the weather radar. I was beneath Alexander’s clouds, his ozone, his atmosphere. With a rush of vertigo, is sensed my imprisonment.”

“we’d come in from the hedged garden, Alexander pulling me through the chill of the entrance hall toward the drawing room. Everything vibrated with the surreal-the room’s dimensions seemed enlarged, and his hand in mine too fleshy, too alive-and then he was taking me in his arms, or rather taking my hand and placing it upon his shoulder, arranging it there while he spread his swollen fingers over the small of my back and held me close. His thinness was stark. I could feel his muscle and bone as we started dancing to the music in his head. The farm’s smell was on his clothes, a sharp, animal musk. One, two, one, two: a swaying, slow, nothing dance. As he moved my body around the yellow-walled room with all its spinning finery, I felt my throat constricting.”

“When he kissed my forehead again, he glanced sideways.
I realised Alexander had us dancing in front of the room’s tall gilt mirror. Everything caught within its frame was too splendid; all the antiques seemed inlaid with exotic woods and wreathes of brass, their lines curving, swirling, as if the very purpose was to disorientate. And he was watching us in the treasure’s midst, posing us. As he turned me, I saw a glaze of pleasure cross his face; here was a child given something he’d felt beyond his reach.”

 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 19 February 2013