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Book Review / The Fortune Teller by Natasha Boydell

Simone and her fellow 30-year-old friends decide to descend on the fortune teller at a local funfair just for a laugh. All but one, Helen, who thinks it's ridiculous, head on in and are each told something big will change in their lives. A great promotion, a move abroad, the ever-expected tall dark stranger. But Simone is told that she'll meet the man of her dreams, followed by a pattering of tiny feet...and in five years disaster will strike.

The problem is, unlike the rest of her friends, Simone begins to allow Mystic Maggie's premonitions to creep into her subconscious. And when she does suddenly find herself in a relationship with a seemingly perfect man, those predictions lead her down a dark and devastating path.

Overall, The Fortune Teller is an easy read, though it deals with some dark themes of mental illness, obsession and psychosis. It leads Simone on a five-year journey from what could and should genuinely have been the happiest experiences of her life, to her becoming a danger to herself and her family. The horror of turning into someone who is entirely dependent on the possession and entrapment of others to feel secure, based solely on the assumed authority of a stranger's words, is pretty horrifying, and so what the story is trying to say I think has importance.

The problem is what the story is trying to say and how it's said are very different. I found so little actual emotional connection in the writing it was hard to feel anything when Simone went on this downward spiral. She didn't seem to have any kind of actual life going on - no interests, no hobbies, no passions. Just being single at thirty with a job and a nice flat and everyone calling her Simmy, which was possibly the most irritating moniker I have ever read. Nothing really to relate to, nothing to fear the loss of - there was a point she made about endometriosis, but that got brushed away because she got pregnant with twins and never had to worry about it again - and nothing really to relate to in the bunch of friends either. All equally dull. Helen was probably a bit more fiery than the others, but she actually kept everything so close to her chest it was impossible to get close to her.

Whether or not it's the case, it didn't seem as if the author knew how to relate to, or relay to us, the real traumatic depth her main character was going through internally. Sure she does some things that are off the rails, but much of the journey into Simone's mental state is her explaining her mental state to the reader with quite a lot of clarity, but never actually changing it.

The dialogue was wooden in more parts that was comfortable reading, and had me just pulling out of the story to shake my head and wonder who actually talks to each other like that? Too much of the prose was also afflicted by the same stilted flow, and so this is probably just the author's voice, which I suppose did not gel too well with my taste. I've no basis for comparison as this is the first novel of hers I've read,

It was the ending that just had me rolling my eyes. The romance with Jude was used as a bat and switch, a way to set-up the possibility he was a bad egg in the future, not her. The story never managed to incorporate a lead-up to the big twist at the end regarding Jude to even make any sense as to what happened. Long and short of it, Simone's "friend" Emma is obsessed with Jude since they apparently dated before he and Simone got together. Emma, who is already apparently happily married to Mark, set-up Mystic Maggie to tell Simone these things about her future to keep her away from Jude. Five years later Simone finds out, and Emma goes bad-movie batshit and tries to steal Jude and Simone's children, nearly kills Simone and gets locked up. Helen then hunts down the fortune teller so she can tell Simone what really happened, and apparently this is the magic bullet that finally frees Simone from her descent into madness.

So. The takeaway from this is that Emma must have already known that Simone was prone to mental breakdowns and obsessions for this fortune teller's lie to have affected her so badly. Right? No idea. It's not introduced at any point before the first scene. She has some emotional baggage as her father recently died, but that doesn't automatically equal mental breakdown. So, if she didn't know the possible effect on Simone, why even bother? Simone could have just shrugged it off. What would Emma have done, turn into the mischievous little hurt fairy and just constantly play stupid little tricks on her to keep her away from Jude? A grown, married woman (an insane grown woman apparently, but still) acting like a jealous 12-year-old until the end of time? And apparently both Helen and Emma knew before even Jude did that he was going to ask Simone out? If Helen knew then why didn't she just tell her best friend this was the case? That he was already thinking about asking her out well before the fortune teller experience to show it wasn't really fortune telling? Or told her at any point at all that Jude's intention was exactly that.

This book is so unbalanced in all the ways it shouldn't be. The bits that were supposed to be intriguing and gasp! moments, like two of the fortune teller's readings coming true for Emma and Shiv, and the disaster happening after 5-years, just felt like they were put there because they'd already been introduced and needed to be justified for the "thriller/mystery" label. The mental health issues weren't developed subtly, they were laid out in clear detail, which doused the flames of conflict. I think if the story about the breakdown of Simone's mental health was focused on better, and the jealousy treated like it was actually a real growing threat, and not some silly playground battle, then it certainly would have been a story much more worth reading. Unfortunately the clash of silly and serious deeply at odds, and ended up making the book of less importance that it could have been.

The macguffin Tom storyline doesn't even really bear reliving.

I'm unlikely to pick up another book from the author, though this one was from the Amazon First Reads, so worth the cost.


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